Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Immigration Bill Sparks Activism

Trying to halt a congressional movement to tighten U.S. immigration laws, several dozen Georgetown students joined an estimated 500,000 protesters in a rally at the Washington Mall yesterday afternoon.

Demonstrators – mostly Latino – called for equality for the United States’ 11-12 million undocumented immigrants. It was one of over 100 protests in cities throughout the nation yesterday.

A group of nine students from MEChA de Georgetown, a student organization promoting Chicano identity, met outside the Leavey Center at 2 p.m. to travel to Meridian Hill Park, where they met thousands of protestors and marched over two miles to the Mall. Aida Flores (COL ’08), the organization’s public relations chair and president-elect, said that the group was met by about 20 other MEChA members at the rally, as well as several Georgetown alumni.

Many members of the group donned white T-shirts with an image of the Statue of Liberty, with “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now” written prominently on the front in red. Flores brought a video camera to the rally and filmed the group throughout the afternoon.

Flores said she was encouraged that flags from around the world, including the U.S. flag, were prominently displayed on the Mall, as protesters showed their support for the United States while voicing their desire for lenient immigration reform.

“To me it represented a very positive image,” she said. “Hopefully it will change something.”

The rally came only months after the House of Representatives passed a bill making it a felony to illegally reside in the United States. On Friday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have legalized many of the nation’s undocumented immigrants.

“This is something that’s very personal to all of us,” Flores said.

Flores said that many of the students in the organization oppose the House bill, H.R. 4437, because they have family members, friends and home communities that would be adversely affected should it become law.

One of the MEChA members who convened at Meridian Hill Park, Hemly Ordonez (SFS ’07), the group’s scholarship coordinator, said that her parents arrived undocumented in the United States 30 years ago, but are now legal citizens.

“I still have family now that comes both legally and illegally,” she said.

Will Adams, spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said that the House bill presented an efficient plan to reduce the number of undocumented workers in the United States.

“Those who are here illegally should go home,” he said. By entering the country illegally, “they are cutting in line in front of people trying to do it the legal way,” he added.

The bill, which passed in December by a 289-182 vote, also criminalizes certain types of aid provided to illegal immigrants.

Aaron Marquez (SFS ’09), a MEChA member who attended the rally, said that he fears that much of the community service work that he provides to undocumented immigrants, including a trip to the Mexican-American border in March, would no longer be permitted under the House bill.

“Any sort of service that anyone provides . would be a felony” if the bill became law, he said.

Adams said that this provision of the bill does not substantially alter laws that are currently on the books, however, because it only criminalizes aid to known undocumented immigrants, and would not affect service organizations that are unaware of their patrons’ immigration status.

“No churches or soup kitchens have been shut down,” he said.

Ordonez said that she and her family would continue to aid her relatives that are in the country illegally were the bill to become law, even if doing so may put them at legal risk.

“My family wouldn’t withdraw [from our relatives] . because it’s our family,” she said.

Ordonez said that more effective immigration reform would provide for the integration of undocumented immigrants who have become established in the United States, similar to the Senate bill, which collapsed last week after 60 senators voted against closing debate on the issue.

Adams said that the Senate bill would have been an unacceptable compromise because undocumented immigrants that have not been in the country for the five years required to receive legal status could forge such documents.

“In effect you’re legalizing all 12 million [illegal immigrants],” he said.

“There’s no perfect solution to this,” Flores said.

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