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Life In The City DatePosted:04/26/06

Live from the Immigartion Rally
by Aria Spence

On a sunny mild, spring afternoon after school, I took the 1 downtown to obtain a certified birth certificate at Worth St. I heard about the protest on the news earlier that morning and quickly went on with my daily routine only to be reminded later when I arrived.  While there, I thought to myself "I'm getting a copy of my birth certificate today as a citizen, while some of these protesters may be illegal immigrants and don't even have the rights I have."  As I walked among the crowd briefly, intense emotions were felt—the atmosphere fostered highly contagious, exuberant moods, which spread throughout the entire nation, in small and large cities alike.  I felt hope and could relate to them, in the sense that my ancestors fought for human rights during the civil rights movement and some of my relatives immigrated here to the United States not too long ago.

 Then I thought, knowing how it truly feels to live in America as an illegal immigrant is foreign to me.  I am only familiar with what it means to be an immigrant.  All of my life, I've been a US citizen.  Yet anyone, whatever their background may be, knows what it is to have a sense of belonging.  I feel compelled to help others in their quest for justice.  Human rights issues affect everyone world-wide.
That Monday, declared National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, forever marked the day in my life I would remember as the first human rights protest I saw actually happen right before my eyes.  Whether or not these 11 million+ immigrants who fervently push for legalization for themselves are considered "legal", they are still American, wholeheartedly living the American dream just as citizens like me are.

 Tens of thousands marched through Downtown Manhattan, bearing American flags and posters, proudly demanding justice for millions of illegal immigrants.  Diverse throngs of Chinese, Africans and Latinos, among many others quickly assembled to peacefully march together in the fight for justice, some holding "We are American" and "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote" banners and chants and cheers" ¡Sí se puede!" (Yes, we can!) Vibrant colors of red, white and blue were worn by protesters showed true patriotism.  Chants in Chinese, English, French and Spanish were heard.  Even religious leaders were present for this special day.

  These protests quickly created gridlock conditions around City Hall--police blocked streets, which led to a major traffic jam all the way to Brooklyn. An estimated 70,000 to 125,000 people attended.  Nationally, the rallies were one of many that opposed a bill that would label illegal immigrants as felonies.  The bill could create a 700-mile fence along the US-Mexico border.  Just last week, The Senate reached a deadlock on a compromise plan to enable citizenship for most illegal immigrants.  And The House of Representatives passed an even harsher bill to crack down on illegal immigrants (US-Mexico border).  Dismal critics believe American government shouldn't tolerate immigrants, especially if they're illegal. While immigrant advocates are pleased with results, vexed critics demand quick changes in US law.

  Will immigrants be whisked away by harsh immigration policies?  The idea that illegal immigrants have the possibility of being labeled as felons instills fear in many.  Issues like these hit close to home, especially when American citizens are informed of how serious these laws can be if enacted.  Immigrants want to live the American dream without fear of being imprisoned, or even worse, deported. They want to be acknowledged as citizens, without being economically exploited.

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