Moments after President Obama announced that the White House would allow a protest in favor of immigration reform to be held in the National Mall, numerous media outlets and political figures accused the president of handing out political favors.
Under the headline “Obama OKs illegals’ march on Mall, still blocks Americans,” White House Correspondent Neil Munro wrote the following for the Daily Caller:
The mall is currently marked as closed, and law enforcement officials have have been deployed to picket open-air monuments to keep Americans off their own land.
Critics quickly pounced on what they see as special treatment for the administration’s allies.
“What this means is that the administration is sending a clear message that it’s OK to barricade elderly veterans out of their memorials, but illegal immigrants have to be accommodated no matter what,” Mark Krikorian, director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller.
“It’s hard to justify closing off open areas [such as the World War II memorial], but to allow a major setup with equipment, electronics and security in a closed area is a little outrageous,” said Krikorian.
This sentiment was echoed by anchors and pundits on Fox News, who went on to broadcast the following video of a man voicing his discontent:
Soon afterward the web was flooded by people ripping the president for allowing an “illegals’ protest.” Here’s some of what was posted:
Someone please send me the exact language in the Constitution that gives rights to “illegals” to walk around and protest our laws. Thanks.
— ‘Eli-sha’ B. Crews (@ElishaNEWS) October 9, 2013
To show how much he hates America……Obama blocks WW 11 veterans from the Memorial…..then allows illegals to go in….to protest America — f396 (@f396) October 9, 2013
Obama can open the Mall for illegals to protest our country yet he continues to barricade WWII memorial. That’s an absolute disgrace.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2013
(Not surprising to see Donald Trump’s name on the list of people casting of protesters as “illegals” considering that he still thinks our president is an illegal immigrant.)
Let’s move on from the question of whether or not Obama was acting impartially to the bigger issue here. Tell me something, why is it that a group of people protesting in favor of immigration reform are automatically labeled as “illegal immigrants”?
Believe it or not there are people in this country who support comprehensive immigration reform that are not illegal immigrants.
The crowd in attendance for the immigration protest was in fact diverse, multi-ethnic, and composed of countless full-fledged American citizens. You need to look no further than the party leadership in attendance to see that.
The group was led by House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi but also included Congressmen Joseph Crowley and Charles B. Rangel of New York, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Al Green of Texas, Luis V. Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona and John Lewis of Georgia. To name a few.
In his very same “Obama OKs illegals’ march on Mall, still blocks Americans,” article Neil Munro also noted the following about a previous immigration reform rally:
Roughly 3,000 people turned out in New York, most of whom were “Asian, Hispanic and Arab,” according to the AFP news agency. That’s less than one percent of the estimated 500,000 illegals in New York, said AFP.
How then did this rally become an “illegals’ march?”
Maybe this was just Munro’s way of launching a sweeping allegation against the legal status of Los Tigres del Norte, the popular Mexican-American band that performed at the rally.
Quick music break.
Ok, I’m back.
In reality this “outrage” was a group of people seeing Hispanics and Latinos protesting and making a harmful and baseless assumption.
All those who were quick to label protesters as “illegals” have the right to do so under the First Amendment, the very same amendment that allowed protesters to be at the Mall to begin with. But the magnitude and acceptance of these attitudes expressed by political figures and media outlets around the country highlights an extreme bias and prejudice that exists towards Latin Americans in the United States; a bias that we will need to overcome if we are ever to truly make headway on not only immigration reform, but achieving equality in this country.
We thank all of the news outlets like NBC News and The New York Times for having the journalistic integrity to accurately label this rally for what it was: an immigration protest, not an “illegals’ protest.”
Cristiano M. Lima (@ludacristiano on Twitter) is a Brazilian-American journalist based out of Bethlehem, PA. He is a recent graduate of Lehigh University where he studied Political Science. He currently writes for 69 News and Prevention Magazine. He’s also been a contributor for Latino Rebels since the fall of 2013. He welcomes any and all Miami Heat trash talk.