WASHINGTON – Carlos Canales
swam up the Rio Grande into Texas two decades ago. He carried his 4-year-old
daughter on his back, while his wife paddled by his side. They came from El
Salvador, hoping to escape civil unrest.
When he arrived in the
United States, Canales built roofs as a day laborer. Now, he organizes the Workplace
Project, a Hempstead- based immigrant labor group.
"After 20 years, I
finally won my status as a legal resident, as a political refugee," said
Canales, who attained his legal status just last February.
Canales joined about 10,000
immigrant rights supporters for a march in Washington yesterday. They urged
Congress to settle on a comprehensive immigration bill giving opportunities for
citizenship and work to the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.
Nearly 100 members of Long
Island immigration groups and 1,000 members of the New York
Immigration Coalition (including Make The Road By Walking members) attended an immigrant- rights rally
in Washington on Thursday."If we
can’t get this Congress to pass fair immigration reform now, we’ll elect a new
Congress in November that will pass it," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
Yesterday’s march followed
poorly attended demonstrations in Phoenix and Chicago, a sharp contrast to
rallies earlier this year, when millions flooded streets around the country.
Some see the dwindling
numbers as evidence that the immigrant rights movement is losing traction. They
say protests have backfired, taxing the patience of U.S.-born citizens instead
of provoking sympathy.
"It has irritated and
angered the American public," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for
American Immigration Reform, which supports stricter immigration laws.
Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday he thought comprehensive immigration reform was
"next to impossible" this fall.
activists and supporters say they are not discouraged by low turnout at rallies
or legislative defeats.