WASHINGTON — Hundreds of people from across the country marched, sweated and called for lawmakers to end the push for “amnesty” on Capitol Hill Monday.
Organized by the Black American Leadership Alliance, the protestors marched in scorching heat from Freedom Plaza to Capitol Hill, where they rallied in a demonstration against current immigration reform attempts.
“There are three kinds of people who support this amnesty,” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King said before the march. “There are those people who are elitists, who want the cheap laborers to clean their houses and mow their lawn. Another are political power brokers that want the power that comes from it, and the third are employers of elitists.”
Rep. Steve King addresses the crowd gathered at Freedom Plaza.
Lawmakers and activists joined the marchers from states as far as California and Arizona in a long rally at the Upper Senate Park, where activists spoke about the Senate immigration reform’s expected effect on America and, specifically, the plight of black Americans and American workers.
Marchers carried signs reading “No Amnesty,” “American Jobs for American Worker“ and “Secure the Border.” At least one sign harkened back to Benghazi: “Where are the Benghazi survivors? Impeach Obama.” Many wore red t-shirts reading “Protect American Jobs, No Amnesty.”
The relatively diverse crowd featured many Tea Party supporters who donned their Tea Party garb and flags.
King walks with Michael Cutler, a senior fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization.
“We have come to ask [lawmakers] to do not throw poor and black people under the bus in order to garner Hispanic votes,” said O’Neal Dozier, senior pastor at The Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, Florida as he kicked off rally speeches.
Two members of the Alabama delegation joined in rallying the crowd — Republican Rep. Mo Brooks and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Brooks called for people embrace facts rather than emotion to see “why the Senate immigration bill must be stopped at all costs,” and argued that America has been one of the “most compassionate and generous and kind-hearted nations in the world when it comes to immigration. But we can be compassionate and still stop something that goes to such great excess that it is a danger to our country.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions addresses the large crowd gathered at the Upper Senate Park, arguing that immigration reform must address the needs of taxpayers.
Sessions spoke about the need to shape immigration reform policy so it betters the economic situation of American taxpayers.
“We need an immigration policy that serves the American worker and the American taxpayer,” Sessions said. “We need an immigration policy that creates higher wages — not lower wages. We need an immigration policy that promotes upward mobility and financial independence. We need an immigration policy that helps our struggling citizens find good-paying jobs that can support their families and lift up their communities.”
Sessions said that the Senate-passed immigration reform bill benefits a few CEOs at the expense of American workers.
“With all due respect to Karl Rove, Mark Zuckerberg and the Chamber of Commerce, there isn’t a shortage of workers in America,” he said. “There is a shortage of jobs. But what does the Senate Gang of Eight immigration bill do? It creates immediate amnesty and a mass increase in low-skilled immigration.”
The mention of Rove, Zuckerberg and the Chamber of Commerce’s names evoked boos from the crowd.
Sen. Ted Cruz argues that illegal immigrants will be exempt from Obamacare, perhaps incentivizing employers to hire them.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also hit a nerve with the crowd. Cruz said Obamacare will affect employers’ hiring decisions — illegal immigrants granted illegal status will not be eligible for Obamacare, so their employers would therefore be exempt from the $5,000 penalty they would incur from hiring a legal citizen.
“One of the most egregious aspects of the gang of eight bill is its intersection with Obamacare, which penalizes businesses that hire a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident over an illegal immigrant,” Cruz said, speaking without notes. “This is utterly and completely indefensible. If this bill passes it will increase unemployment: it will increase African American unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, youth unemployment and even legal immigrant unemployment.”
Members of the Black American Leadership Alliance argued that mass immigration and amnesty will hurt the African American community.
“This is the defining economic issue of our time. We are about to see the end, the evisceration of the black American community and their elected officials, because I cannot call the Congressional Black Caucus leaders. I cannot call the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leaders. I will say these are the traditional sources black people have relied on, they should no longer,” Tom Broadwater, a member of the Black American Leadership Alliance and national chair of Americans for Work, said to cheers.
Black American Leadership Alliance member and political commentator Kevin Martin said that the mean names opponents of amnesty have been called “nativist” “racist” as a “badge of honor, I stand for the American worker, I stand for the American people. I’m not anti-immigrant. I’m anti-amnesty.”
Jamiel Shaw, a self-described “pissed-off dad” spoke about how his son was murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member from Mexico in 2008.
“You have to understand [the murderer] is not the only one. There’s a lot of people in danger. If you give everybody amnesty, right now in the Senate bill there is a provision that if you’re in a gang, living in the country, you can still get amnesty,” Shaw said. “We don’t want that.”
During portions of the rally, some of the marchers carried sheets with the faces and names of Americans who have been killed by illegal immigrants, in what they called a “Stolen Lives Quilt.”
The Stolen Lives Quilt.
Former Rep. Allen West addresses unemployment and its relation to African Americans, especially African American teenagers.
Former Florida Republican Rep. Allen West also made an appearance, speaking about lawmakers abandoning the problems of inner city, and spurring chants of “West for President.”
“When you think about what is happening with black unemployment, when you think about what is happening with black teenage unemployment — all those voices that were down in Sanford, Florida — why aren’t they here today, standing with us now?” West asked, invoking the recent trial of George Zimmerman for the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin.
“Now we have a Senate, we have a president, we have people up here on Capitol Hill that think it is more important to reward people who came here illegally than to look to the inner cities, and strengthen the inner cities, and strengthen the black community,” West said.
Louisiana state senator Elbert L. Guillory, who recently switched from the Democratic to Republican Party, spoke about President Obama not securing the borders.
“[Obama] pretends to care about poor people. He pretends to care about the middle class, but he doesn’t,” Guillory said. “We are in his hip pocket. He counts on us to vote for him and his policies. He counts on us but we don’t count. We don’t count to him.”
Christopher, a marcher from Arizona told TheDC that he traveled to Washington to march to tell Congress to consider American workers first.
“Where I live at is really bad, the immigration problem. The unemployment rate — I’m just going to keep it real — for blacks in Arizona is like off the chart and for the youngsters it’s like double that,” he said.
“This lengthy bill is ridiculous,” Dina, a marcher who traveled from North Carolina told TheDC. “We’re against anything except securing the border and then we wouldn’t have this problem.”
“A lot of Americans need jobs right now,” added another marcher from Ohio, rhetorically asking,“Why are we giving citizenship to illegal aliens?”
In early June before the passage of the Senate immigration bill, the Black American Leadership Alliance wrote a letter to members of the Gang of Eight, the Congressional Black Caucus, and senators from states with the highest rates of black unemployment to explain that the Senate immigration bill would be “devastating for the black community.”
The Senate passed immigration reform on June 27.
Katie McHugh contributed to this report.