Thousands of immigration advocates rallied in Bakersfield, California yesterday, taking the immigration fight personally to GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and demanding that he support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The advocates first rallied to music and speeches from leaders in Yokuts Park, before walking a short distance to to Rep. McCarthy’s office–where they met a couple dozen anti-immigrant protesters.
The immigration opponents were the usual: older, almost all white, holding up signs supporting Sheriff Joe Arpaio and yelling “si se puede deportation!”
The America’s Voice team was there, and two encounters in particular caught our attention. The first is this tweet:
“Go back to Mexico!” this woman yelled at the young lady next to me. “I was born here,” she replied. pic.twitter.com/tXVnWTitJA
— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) August 14, 2013
And the other is this video. In it, advocates from Yokuts Park are turning into the driveway to march toward Kevin McCarthy’s office. You can see the point at which they run into the anti-immigrant protesters waiting for them. As the advocates begin to make speeches, the protesters try to drown them out with shouts of “USA! USA!” But two can play that game: the advocates turned the chant around and shouted it back, louder, at the protesters.
These episodes, to us, signify what immigration reform opponents fundamentally don’t understand about our movement. It’s the driving force behind why hundreds of thousands of DREAMers lined up in cities all over the country this date last year in order to apply for temporary relief from deportation and work permits. It’s why advocates this year are so determined to push for a real immigration solution that includes a path to citizenship.
It’s because immigrants are Americans. We were either born in the US, are Americans in all but paperwork, are naturalized citizens, have family members who are US citizens, or some combination of the above. We work hard and contribute to our country. We pay taxes. We grow up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Anti-immigrant hardliners like Steve King might try to set us apart as an “other,” comparing us to dogs or cattle or drug smugglers. But immigrants are the American story.
And, those of us who are already citizens vote for our community and our families. Steve King might not understand the connection between the 2012 election and the current push for immigration reform. But wiser Republicans do, and so do we. We won’t forget those who were our champions on the road toward immigration reform this year, and we won’t forgive those who are still standing in the way of giving us a vote.
The anti-immigrant opponents in the video above were trying to use the USA chant as a weapon against us. But we are Americans too.