News Column

Immigration Rally Held at National Mall

October 8, 2013

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A Washington rally Tuesday will urge Congress to pass a citizenship pathway for immigrants in the country without legal permission, organizers say.

The "Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform" rally is set to start at noon on the National Mall, even though the open-area national park is closed due to the federal government shutdown, a rally spokeswoman told The Washington Examiner.

The National Park Service, which administers the mall, agreed to let the event take place under First Amendment privileges, Susana Flores told the newspaper.

The First Amendment says Congress can make no law abridging free speech, peaceful assembly or an appeal to government to redress grievances.

The mall is intended to be the preeminent national civic space for public gatherings because it is considered the place where constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly find their fullest expression, a mall foundation statement says.

Tuesday's 6-hour mass rally follows more than 150 rallies in 40 states Saturday.

Organizers described the Saturday and Tuesday rallies as their major show of force this year.

Tuesday's rally -- which organizers said would attract "tens of thousands" of participants -- comes as the federal government shutdown enters its second week and the Republican-controlled House remains locked in a feud with President Obama and Democrats over healthcare and debt funding.

"I know there has been a shutdown, but we want Congress to know that the time is now to act," Evelyn Servin, an immigrant advocate, told The New York Times in Birmingham, Ala., during that city's rally Saturday.

About 30 members of Congress are expected to attend Washington's rally, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., organizers said.

Social activist and 1960s civil rights leader Julian Bond, along with union and religions leaders, are also to participate.

After the rally, demonstrators plan to march to the U.S. Capitol, on the opposite end of the mall from the Lincoln Memorial.

House Democrats introduced a bill last week that closely matches a comprehensive bipartisan bill the Senate passed in June that includes a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11.7 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The House bill had no Republican sponsors.

Several House GOP leaders, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, say they hope to hold votes on smaller immigration bills in the next two months.

Tuesday's rally is hosted by several immigration activist groups, together with the National Education Association, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.

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Original headline: Washington immigration-reform rally seeks to press Congress

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