As President Obama began his second term Monday with a pledge for greater equality and opportunity, New Haven activists called on him to finish the job on immigration reform.
Some 40 people gathered on the steps of the federal courthouse on Church Street on Monday to call on President Obama to work to follow through on his first-term promise to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Holding signs and banners, the demonstrators chanted through megaphones as snowflakes fell and the sun set.
The event, part of a national day of action on immigration reform, was organized by a coalition of activist groups including Unidad Latina en Accion, the Unitarian Society of New Haven, and Yale Divinity School Seminarians for a Democratic Society.
The rally coincided not only with inauguration day in Washington, D.C., but with Martin Luther King Day. Speakers at the rally called for action from Obama and also invoked the legacy of Dr. King for what they termed a modern-day civil rights struggle.
John Lugo, one of the rally’s organizers, noted that Obama was elected in 2008 with a promise to reform the nation’s immigration laws. “We wait and wait and wait,” but Obama never made it happen, Lugo said.
Meanwhile, in Obama’s first term, the country deported 1.5 million people, Lugo said.
Obama won election to his second term with overwhelming support from Latinos; now is the time to act, Lugo (pictured) said. “He needs a push from the people.”
“I’m sure if Martin Luther King was alive he would be here,” said Lugo.
Greg Williams (at left in photo), a student at Yale Divinity School, framed the pursuit of immigration reform as a question of civil and human rights. “The right to a minimum wage that is actually enforced by the government. The right [for immigrants] to not be arbitrarily separated from their families. The right to have recourse when they are abused by a landlord, by a police officer, or by somebody else in power. At a basic level, immigration reform is about accomplishing the dream that Martin Luther King taught us to dream about.”
“The man who was sworn in now for a second time has a lot of promises that he has not kept,” said Mark Colville (pictured), of the Catholic Worker House. “We have to get out in the street. We have to move this government.”
“I’m excited about President Barack Obama having another four years,” said Rev. Scott Marks. “I voted for him that he would fight for the right of immigrants to have a right in this country like any other human being. Yes, we should celebrate that he made it. But we should hold him to task. We should stand up and we should fight that all human beings are treated equal. “
Demonstrators stood in the cold for over an hour as speakers took turns on the megaphone. In between, there were chants for amnesty and justice for immigrants.
The goal is a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Lugo said. He called upon people to “go out to the streets and keep fighting.”