U.S. Relations

Rally for Citizenship

Samantha and Erica (Voices' DC office staff) attend the Immigration Rally in Washington
Samantha and Erica (Voices’ DC office staff) attend the Immigration Rally in Washington

On Wednesday, April 10, members of Voices’ staff joined tens of thousands of immigrants and activists at the Rally for Citizenship on the lawn of the US Capital. The rally called for Congress to draft and sign a comprehensive immigration reform before their summer recess (August 5- September 6).  Immigration activists want reform to include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently residing in the United States.

In addition to the DC event, which was largely organized by CASA de Maryland, other cities like Boston, New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco also held rallies in support of immigration reform.

Among the tens of thousands who attended the DC rally were immigrants, union workers, and immigrant rights groups and activists. The air above the National Mall was filled with American flags as well as flags from various Latin American countries. Attendees held up posters and signs that addressed a variety of issues, stating, “The Time is Now,” “Keep Families Together,” and “The U.S. is a Nation of Immigrants.”

Chants of “Si se puede” (yes, you can) and “Obama escucha, estamos en la lucha (Obama, listen, we are in the fight) and “Reforma, Ahora” (Reform, Now) erupted throughout the rally. The crowd had impressive energy, especially when members of Congress, for example Senator Robert Mendez (D-NJ) directly addressed the crowd about their promises to enact comprehensive reforms. Members of Congress spoke of the important contributions that immigrants make to U.S. culture and economy, and reminded everyone that the U.S. is a country historically and presently comprised of immigrants. Underlining the important role of immigrants in the U.S, (name?) stated, “without immigration, there is no vibrant American culture.” Many speakers at the rally also stressed that families are being torn apart by U.S. immigration laws.

While the majority of the attendees were Latinos and Spanish was the most prominent language spoken at the rally, groups from Asia and Africa participated in as well. Speeches by activists, journalists, Congressmen and Congresswomen, and community leaders were given in English and Spanish and at times Arabic, to address as many different populations as possible.

Voices stands in solidarity with those fighting for comprehensive immigration reform and is hopeful, perhaps naively so, that the gang of eight representatives working on immigration reform will finally achieve meaningful change.

(Voices is drafting a more detailed article about the immigration reforms proposed by the Gang of 8 – a group of U.S. Senators. We’ll be posting again soon!)

 

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes

President Funes Visit to the U.S.

The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, will be in Washington DC this week to meet with U.S. officials, business interests, and the International Development Bank (IDB). His agenda includes discussions about regional security issues, the gang truce and reduction of the murder-rate in El Salvador, as well as the temporary protective status (TPS) for Salvadorans. President Funes also said he would be meeting with business interests regarding the possibility of new investments in El Salvador.

Funes will meet with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss, in part, security and the gang truce. Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the truce, which seems to have resulted in steep declines in the official homicide rate – the official murder rate in 2011 was 4,371 and in 2012 it dropped to 2,582. While gang leaders credit the reduction in homicides to their commitment in transitioning to a more peaceful society, the Salvadoran government has attributed the decrease to improvements in their security efforts. Funes will also meet with officials from the IDP and participate in a meeting on regional security issues.

Discussions with US officials about temporary protective status (TPS) for Salvadorans in the US are timely, as the US Congress is trying to pass comprehensive immigration reform. TPS allows many Salvadorans to live and work in the U.S., but they have limited rights and no clear path to residency or citizenship. Immigration reform is an opportunity to create mechanisms for Salvadorans to convert their TPS to a more permanent status, which will afford them more rights.

On Thursday, President Funes will meet with business interests that have “an important announcement about a multi-million dollar investment that they want to make in El Salvador.” Salvadoran officials said the meeting would be with “businesses that are willing to make important investments in the area of new technology.” The announcement comes during a time when the U.S. is encouraging the Salvadoran Legislature to pass a Law on Public-Private Partnerships (P3 Law) as a prerequisite to signing a second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact. The P3 Law and the MCC are fairly controversial issues in El Salvador. While Funes is in favor of both, there is disagreement in his party over support of these new initiatives.

This trip is an opportunity for President Funes to convince U.S. officials that his administration is making the kind of progress (lower murder rates and more foreign investment) and reforms (P3 Law) they want before approving more aid or giving the Salvadoran Diaspora more rights.