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Weekly Diaspora: 200,000 March on DC, Call for Immigration Reform Now

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This post is a weekly feature by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium Blogger:

As the health care debate comes to a close, there’s no better time to introduce comprehensive immigration reform. Hundreds of thousands of immigrant rights supporters from all over the country congregated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to demand immigration reform in 2010. It was the largest political rally to be held since President Barack Obama moved into the White House.

Dressed in white and carrying American flags, the crowd numbered between 200,000 to 500,000 people. The marchers spanned approximately 7 blocks, all the way from the Washington Monument to the steps of Congress. Although many media outlets and lawmakers were were occupied by the historic health care vote taking place in the House of Representatives on the same day, Obama took time from his busy schedule to record a video message to the marchers, in which he discussed the need for immigration reform “this year.”

Obama the guest speaker

“I pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus, this year on this issue,” Obama said in the video, which was broadcast to the cheering crowd via giant TV screens on the Mall’s perimeter.

As RaceWire notes, Obama explained to reform supporters that “you know as well as I do that this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but if we work together across ethnic, state and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

The message came hot on the heels of a proposed Senate outline of an immigration reform bill, written a few days beforehand by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “For undocumented immigrants already here, the pathway to [a documented] status is basically this: pay a fine, pay back taxes, admit you broke the law, do some community service and then pass a back ground test,” RaceWire’s Seth Freed Wessler notes.

A similar immigration reform bill is in the House, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), but it is unknown when Schumer and Graham will introduce their proposal to the Senate floor. Immigrant advocates want lawmakers to introduce a reform bill in the Senate this Spring so that there will be time to debate the issue in 2010. The Senate outline is just a rough draft and the proposal could change significantly after it goes through Congress.