Hundreds rally for immigration reform on National Mall, despite shutdown

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Several hundred people rallied on the National Mall in Washington on Tuesday in a bid to pressure lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The National Mall was officially closed because of the federal shutdown, but organizers said they were able to gather on the public space after representatives of the National Park Service told them First Amendment uses would be allowed.

"The date of this rally has been set for over a month, so the timing with the shutdown was just a little unforeseen," said Shannon Maurer, spokesperson for the Alliance for Citizenship, which helped organize the event.

By the afternoon several hundred people — fewer than the "tens of thousands" anticipated — had joined the "Camino Americano: Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect."

Participants were pushing a message that the House needs to stop waiting and act now, following the Senate's lead to pass immigration reform.

Anthony Castellon, a 16-year-old from Granada Hills, said he came to the rally to support his friends and family.

"A lot of these people wouldn't be here if they really didn't care," Castellon said. "A lot of us care, or are, like you say, legal here — are allowed to be here — and they're still here supporting, because we have family and friends who aren't legal here."

"My message is: 'We're going to be here whether you like it or not, and we're going to keep trying to be here with a purpose," he said.

More than a dozen Democratic representatives of Congress filled the stage at the rally. But there were also Republican House members, including Jeff Denham and David Valadao of the Central Valley .

Valadao said he hoped the House would be able to push a reform bill through by the end of the year.

"Immigration has been something we've always talked about," he said. "The government shutdown's taken all the national attention right now with everything going on there... but on immigration specifically, the Senate's actually done a bill, and now we have to come up on our side and start to present our ideas and move those forward, and I want to continue to put pressure on leadership to do that."

Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte) said this kind of visible, public pressure was especially important when there has been strong opposition from Republicans in the House.

"That's why it's important for the American people to come out and say, 'We want immigration reform done now,'" Chu said, adding, "I believe that Republicans will be irrelevant if they do not do something on immigration reform. They lost badly in this last presidential race because they haven't done anything and they are alienating increasing numbers of voters."

According to Capitol police, about 200 people were arrested, including a few members of Congress, in a pre-planned act of civil disobedience.

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