Protesters gathered on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. The faces of the protesters, however, were not from Central America or Mexico. Instead, they represented places like the Caribbean, Africa and West India.
The rally, sponsored by The Black Institute, Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH) and The Black Immigrant Network with the support of several members of Congress, sought to focus attention on the plight of the black immigrant. Many at the rally were from New York City, the hub of a very diverse immigrant population.
Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute, said in a statement, “Today, we rally to encourage our black immigrants to come out of the shadows and fight for their place at the table. Today, we lobby Congress to take action to ensure that their voices are heard.”
In recent years, much of the debate on immigration has centered on Mexicans and Latinos. However, the voices of other migrant populations have largely been unheard or underrepresented in discussions across the country.
According to the latest Census Bureau data, 12.8 percent of the U.S. populations, approximately 40 million individuals, are foreign-born persons. Many of the immigrant populations face identical challenges, including education and job opportunities, family reunification and a concise pathway to citizenship.
“We’ve all been trying to make the point clear and as loudly as we can that we recognize comprehensive immigration reform is something that has to apply to everybody,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). “It’s not just an Asian issue, it’s not just a Latino issue, it’s not just an Eastern European issue, but it’s also a black issue, because it’s an American issue. If it’s going to be comprehensive immigration reform that means it has to be comprehensive. That means it has to apply to everybody.”