Whitman Students Rally for Immigration Reform
Immigration reform supporters from Whitman University joined thousands of protestors rallying last Saturday in Seattle to put pressure on Congress to update and expand the nation's immigration laws.
The Washington Immigration Reform Coalition, an organization that includes more than 50 immigrants’ rights groups, labor unions, faith-based organizations and community groups, coordinated the rally according to the Whitman Pioneer.
While some of the 35 Whitman students who joined the rally came because of their own personal experiences with U.S. immigration policy, others simply attended to show support for the cause.
“It doesn’t help anyone to have people living in the shadows, in fear. It’s not just about immigrants’ rights; it’s about everyone’s rights,” said Whitman junior Lissa Erickson, in an interview with the Whitman Pioneer.
“There is a need to solve [immigration], and in order to solve it, there has to be a push from ordinary Americans,” said sophomore Yonas Fikak.
Like many pro-reform college students around the country, Fikak said that he supported the DREAM Act, a bill that if passed, would allow students who are currently in the country illegally to gain citizenship and become eligible for financial aid.
Fikak said that when he applied to college he had friends who struggled to get financial assistance because they were undocumented immigrants.
"They were going through problems applying for scholarships," he said. "They were doing a lot more work than I was doing."
In addition to the DREAM Act, one of the other main pieces of immigration legislation currently under review by Congress is the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (CIR-ASAP).
Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have also proposed that all American workers should be issued biometric identification cards to discourage the hiring of illegal immigrants.
According to OneAmerica, one of the groups participating in the rally, Washington was the first state to have both of its Senators write a letter to President Obama demanding action on immigration reform this year.
U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, was well-received at the rally when he opened his remarks with, "Good afternoon, fellow immigrants." He went on to say, "Our current immigration system places more emphasis on filling out forms properly than on compassion and common sense."
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