Rallying for a Stalled Immigration Relief Program

More than 250 people rallied at Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan May 19 to support President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), a federal program that would allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to apply for temporary deportation relief and work authorization.

Part of President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform announced last November, the plan would have taken effect today but was stalled after 26 states filed a lawsuit blocking the act.

Watch video coverage of the rally from Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn and Justin Joffe above; read Aliza Chasan’s account below. 


Immigration reform advocates clashed with anti-reform protesters May 19 at a planned pro-reform rally in Lower Manhattan.

Sí, se puede,” yes, we can, people supporting immigration reform shouted out.

“Speak English,” anti-immigration protesters shouted in response. “More deportations,” they yelled.

May 19 was the planned date for the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), a plan to allow the undocumented parents of American citizens a chance to defer deportation. But it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas in February. Rallies were held across the country to denounce the ruling.

“The country needs this. Our economy needs it,” said Lucia Gomez, the executive director of La Fuente, an organization that works with new immigrant communities. “We elected a president and he did what is right and we expect Congress to do the same.”

Gomez said she has many friends, neighbors and coworkers who would be helped by DAPA.

“This needs to happen,” Gomez said. “The idea is to keep families united.”

Off to the side of the pro-reform rally, protesters stood holding signs that said “Illegals Take Jobs From American Citizens” and “Deport Illegal Aliens.”

Bradley Morris, who immigrated to America legally 25 years ago from South Africa, called undocumented immigrants “parasites.”

“Why should there be immigration reform? Reform denotes that there’s something wrong with the system,” Morris said. “They’re criminals and they should be deported.”

People fighting for reform are getting tired of attitudes like that, said Manuel Castro, an immigration campaign coordinator with the New York Immigration Coalition.

“That’s why we’re here to demand that DAPA pass in the courts,” Castro said. “We are also here to show you unity and to fight for a just immigration system that will preserve the unity of our families.”

Castro stood next to a cardboard mailbox as he spoke. People at the rally slipped in letters to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, demanding that they allow DAPA to move forward.

A group from the Hotel Trades Council also attended the rally and John Tritt, the union’s deputy political director, said he wasn’t surprised by the kickback against DAPA.

“But that’s not stopping us from continuing to push forward,” Tritt said. “Our union fights hard every day to make sure our members are treated with respect and dignity and the president’s executive action is in line with that.”

As the crowds dispersed, some Queens residents who joined the rally stayed behind and joined hands to pray for immigration reform. Pedro Rodriguez led the group in asking God to help Congress love immigrants.

“It’s important to pray for them so that God will open the minds and hearts of Congress,” Rodriguez said. “What they’re doing to the immigrants is against the law of God.”

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