On Sunday, March 21st (the first day of Spring), several of us were blessed to be able to participate in a massive rally in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. Organizers estimate the crowd at over 200,000 attendees. From our vantage point, it was clearly crowded, festive, diverse, family-oriented, and filled with love.
As the singing of the Star Spangled Banner came to an end, I wondered how the words “land of the free and home of the brave” felt to the many immigrants in attendance. I suspect that they appreciate what freedom means more than I ever will. As brave as I like to think I am, I don’t know if I’d have the courage to move to a foreign country–leaving behind everything familiar and potentially risking everything–in order to provide for my family. Hopefully I will never be faced with that choice.
I was moved by the number of families who attended the rally with their children, and by how many of those families have been negatively affected by current immigration policies. I was encouraged by the many religious groups represented, including Unitarian Universalists. It was heartening to see that the message of Standing on the Side of Love resonated with so many non-UUs, especially when children, youth and young adults asked for the SSL buttons, placards, and bumper stickers.
The moment that reduced me to tears was when, strolling along, I saw this young woman holding her handwritten poster. On either side of her stood friends, holding “Standing on the Side of Love” placards. (I couldn’t fit all three of them in and still read what she had written.) I saw how love was, literally, allowing her to stand. We’re always talking about ‘deadbeat dads’–here’s a deadbeat system forcing parents away from their kids. It broke my heart.
As a person of Asian descent, I am very aware that different ethnic minorities in the U.S. have often been pitted against each other, when we could be so much stronger united. And I know that undocumented immigration is also an Asian issue, even though Latinos/Hispanics get most of the (unpleasant) attention. So it was very important to me to see diversity represented both on stage and in the crowd. While most of the people present appeared to be descended from Latin America, there were also Asian, African and Euro faces speaking as one. Walking among the crowd, I felt we were united, strong. This IS America.