Waving banners and chanting for equality and justice, hundreds of people marched through downtown Houston on Labor Day, pledging to continue their fight for immigration reforms that offer a chance at residency for the millions of illegal immigrants living in the country.
Organizers said they hadnâ€™t expected the thousands of people who participated in rallies across the country last spring, but simply wanted to remind federal lawmakers that they are still pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.
Jackie Henderson, with one of the organizations in attendance, told the media that she believes itâ€™s time to make everyone in the country an Americanâ€”legalize everyone and give green cards to all.
The House and Senate have failed to resolve the differences between the immigration bill each has passed.
The Senate approved a guest worker program and a possible path to citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. The House-approved bill focuses on enforcement, including making all illegal immigrants subject to felony prosecution, and has no provision for guest workers.
A series of hearings in Washington and around the country were held on the topic this summer.
During the march, people carried signs that read, â€œNo Human Being is Illegal.â€ In keeping with the Labor Day theme, marchers also chanted for fair wages for illegal immigrants and held up signs that read, â€œWe Are Workers, Not Criminals, Not Terrorists.â€
Across the street from the rally, about five counter protesters gathered, holding up signs that read, â€œDefinition: Undocumented & Unauthorized Means Illegalâ€ and â€œFly Your Flag In Your Country.â€
Protesters shouted â€œBush, escucha, estamos en la lucha,â€ meaning â€œBush, listen to us, we are in the struggle,â€ and â€œAqui estamos y no nos vamos,â€ meaning â€œWeâ€™re here and weâ€™re not leaving.â€
Reception of Homeland Security & HPD Officials with Community Leadership
Important officials Daniel Sutherland and Shaarik Zafar of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Houston Police Department Chief Harold Hurtt and Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi, Houston City Council Member Honorable M. J. Khan and Houston City Attorney Arturo Michel, among other important leaders, recently met with the Muslim and South Asian Communities leaders at a reception organized at the offices of Mustafa Iqbal Tameez of Outreach Strategists.
This was a unique opportunity for local South Asian and Middle Eastern communities to interact with senior ranking administration officials.
Houston City Council Member Honorable M. J. Khan welcomed and introduced the DHS and HPD officials. He introduced HPD Chief Harold Hurtt as Chief of all the Chiefs of Police Departments across the USA and as a person highly admired by the mayor, city council and the police department. He commended the outstanding relations-building work done among several communities and the excellent professionalism shown by Houston Police (Peace) Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi [who earlier used to be in the police department in his home country of Pakistan].
Sutherland was introduced as the person who oversees civil rights policies for all 22 federal agencies under DHS, including the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), United States Coast Guard, and the United States Secret Service.
Shaarik Zafar, a Houstonian Muslim, serves as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His duties include advising senior Department officials on civil rights issues; working with other Federal agencies to develop civil rights policy and outreach initiatives; and meeting regularly with the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian communities to build bridges of understanding and cooperation.
Chief Harold Hurtt said that Houston is a diverse community of over 2 million people, and explained this diversity is reflected in the police officers of Houston, (who in Texas are called â€œpeace officersâ€).
He explained that HPD does not have the resources to enforce federal regulations like the immigration laws. This is a very complex issue, and he is not in favor of HPD getting involved with it. However, if someone is involved in criminal activities, like gangs, drugs and human trafficking, HPD will coordinate further investigation with Federal Agencies and Immigration Status of such individuals will be checked.
Daniel Sutherland said we are living in challenging and fast -changing times, and vigilance of the highest order is needed to provide safety and security to every American regardless of race, color, creed and religion.
He emphasized the necessity of continuing dialog and engagement between various communities and law enforcement agencies as vital to creating an atmosphere of trust.
G. R. Baluch, Consul General of Pakistan, and Houston Community College Prof. Dr. Birgees raised the issues of students detained for minor violations across the US, and asked for policy changes from the government and assistance from law enforcement agencies.
Daniel Sutherland did note down details of these complaints and asked for specifics to be sent to his office. He said all the complaints of Civil Rights Abuses (if any) should be quickly brought to the attention of his office. In this regard, he applauded the liaison work of young Shaarik Zafar of his office.
You can contact Shaarik.Zafar@dhs.gov. DHS Civil Rights: 202-282-8000 / Comment Line: 202-282-8495.