On Saturday morning, nearly 20 members of the Columbia University Democrats joined more than 2,000 other advocates at an immigration reform rally in Brooklyn.
This event was part of a national day of action that included marches in more than 60 cities across the country. CU Dems President Sejal Singh, CC ’15, said the rally at Cadman Plaza was intended to urge House Speaker John Boehner to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The protesters were supporting efforts to expand family- and employment-based visas for immigrants and provide legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States.
“People who’ve lived here their entire lives are being deported. Families are being separated,” Singh said. “We need to put a stop to this now.”
For Partha Sharma, CC ’17, and CU Dems Lead Activist Melissa Quintana, CC ’16, immigration reform came close to home.
“Coming from an immigrant family, the bill is especially important to me,” Quintana said. “This is an issue that can’t be pushed back any longer.”
Some students were initially worried about the timing of the rally in light of the recent government shutdown.
“Even though it seems like there are more pressing things happening right now, immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed by our government,” Lucille Marshall, GS ’16, said.
Despite the concerns over the shutdown, spirits remained high at the event.
“You can shut down the government, but not the voice of the people,” Jordana Narin, CC ’17, said.
The rally featured big-name politicians, including New York City Public Advocate and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
After listening to speeches, the protesters took to the streets. They marched from Cadman Plaza across the Brooklyn Bridge to Lower Manhattan.
“You really feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself,” Narin said.
Many of the CU Dems said they were surprised by the scale of the rally.
“I was amazed by how many different types of people turned out,” Ilana Greenstein, BC ’16, said. “There was such a wide range of age, ethnicity and social background.”
The Dems were in high spirits as they headed back to Morningside Heights.
“Boehner thought that by refusing to bring it to a vote in the House, he was silencing a movement, but really he’s amplified it,” Narin said of the immigration bill. “I think that’s what we’ve shown.”