Local immigration reform activists are preparing for thousands of supporters nationwide to head to Las Vegas for Saturday’s Rally for America in an attempt to re-energize their cause.
Overshadowed by health care and economic debate, event leaders chose to host the gathering in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in hopes of attracting more attention and gaining a stronger voice.
Reid is scheduled to speak at the event with Rep. Shelley Berkley, AFL-CIO International President Richard Trumka and others.
Nevada “is such an important state politically, and our constituents are people here who make up a very high immigrant population,” said Michael Flores, Southern Nevada director of Reform Immigration for America. “The location is ideal. Right now we’re in a big economic downturn, so what we’re trying to do is show that if you pass comprehensive immigration reform this would really help the economy. This is a very appropriate place for that, in a city and state that’s hurting so bad.”
Saturday’s rally will be from noon to 3 p.m. in front of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Las Vegas Boulevard will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Clark to Bridger avenues for the 10,000 or more people rally organizers expect at the event. They base their estimate on Internet RSVPs.
Las Vegas police spokesman officer Jacinto Rivera said officers will be assigned to monitor the rally, but he wouldn’t give out any specific details of what the agency is doing, saying it would violate security protocol.
As congressional leaders move forward with health care and economic reform, immigration activists said they are eager to bring the issue to light after a similar rally took place March 21 in Washington, D.C.. That was the same day President Barack Obama signed into law the historic health care bill, which dominated the immigration rally.
But event officials said that won’t happen this time. Word spread quickly about the weekend event. The group used radio and newspaper ads as well as social networking sites, visited with unions, churches and schools and canvassed local neighborhoods, Flores said.
Event officials are hoping for upwards of 14,000 people to show.
“People are really fired up and ready to go,” Flores said. “They know the importance of this and are eager to get something going.”
Reform activists said change won’t come with simply opening up the borders; it comes with from border security, reuniting families, employer accountability, workers’ rights and a “citizenship process that works for everyone.”
Clergy from diverse faith traditions voiced their support Wednesday for compassionate immigration reform consistent with America’s faith tradition.
“If we lock doors, keep people out and don’t provide access to citizenship, one of the things we do is stop some of the greatest minds and some of the most influential people in the world from being able to come here and we benefit from it,” said Robert Fowler, senior pastor of Victory Baptist Church. “We’re hoping by moving forward we can do some things to hasten the process.”
Rabbi Felipe Goodman, of Temple Beth Sholom, said the issue needs to be about more than just politics.
“Immigration reform is not about liberal issues and conservatives issues; it is a human rights issue,” Goodman said. “It is an issue who, all of us who value the values of this country, should be concerned about. One of the proudest days of my life was when I became an American citizen. To me, being a citizen of this country is staying true to the ideals of freedom and liberty and what that means to people who are underprivileged in society. If we cannot do that, we have really lost our course as a nation.”
Contact Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-383-0279. Review-Journal writer Antonio Planas contributed to this report.