refugees welcome
Pro-immigrant groups showed support for Syrian refugees on Friday as the protested national inaction on immigration reform, and commemorated the 1-year anniversary of President Obama announcing his executive actions that would have shielded up to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. His actions were blocked by lower courts, but the Dept. of Justice announced today that the administration has petitioned the Supreme Court to take the case. Above: A pro-refugee activist holds a sign at a protest in Olympia, Washington November 20, 2015. REUTERS/David Ryder

Los Angeles — Latino and Asian pro-immigrant groups held a joint press conference on the steps of City Hall on the one year anniversary of Barack Obama’s announcement that he would defer deportation for around 5 million immigrants in the U.S. Illegally. But more than just demand immigration leniency in their own communities, Mexican and Korean immigrants who spoke in front of the grey walls of City Hall on Friday declared solidarity with Syrian refugees and other Arab immigrants.

“Well I just returned from Washington D.C. last night, and the last thing I did before I got on to the plane was to cast a vote against the bill that would block Syrian refugees," said Rep. Judy Chu, (CA-27) before being interrupted by applause. "It is wrong to stereotype and scapegoat immigrant and refugees."

Local politician Gil Cedillo told the crowd of activists and press that those types of policies had “never worked out,” citing the Chinese exclusion act, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"There was operation wetback, a proposal that now somebody (Donald Trump) [has] the audacity to suggest that we go back to those days,” Cedillo said. "We were so elated one year ago [...] Now we stand here at [a] time where we have seen hate and xenophobia and anti-immigration hysteria reach new heights.”

Following the ISIS attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, a Bloomberg poll (4-5 percent margin of error) found that over 50 percent of Americans don’t want the government to admit Syrian refugees. Another 11 percent say they only support Christian refugees.

Supporters of the Syrian refugee bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the house, have often pointed to concerns voiced last month by FBI Director James Comey during congressional testimony. He told lawmakers that there were some weak points in Syrian refugee’s comparatively rigorous screening progress.

“If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” Comey said. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

But while Republicans parsed and sometimes exaggerated the meaning of “no risk,” with regard to Syrian refugees, Chu had other concerns. Also questioning the FBI Director last month, Chu chewed into Carney over spying cases filed and quickly dropped against Chinese-American scientists.

“Let us not forget that during WWII 120,000 Japanese-Americans lost everything they had and were imprisoned in desolate camps,” Chu said. “Not a single case of espionage was proven."

Speakers addressed media standing next to a five-foot wide LED clock that counted down the seconds until the 2016 election, a day that immigrant rights advocates say will be the last day that anti-immigrant politicians see in office.

While Syrian refugees don’t enjoy the force of public opinion, comprehensive immigration reform does. In that Bloomberg, even a narrow majority of Republicans even supported amnesty — legal reprieve without paying a fine — for migrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

It might be smarter for immigration advocates to separate their more popular fight with the less popular advocacy for Syrians, who lack a shared culture and millions of relatives who can vote. But at the local and national levels, immigration reform leaders rejected the refugee bill on Friday

"To use the incidents in Paris as a pretext for fanning the flames of bigotry against people who have fled war, murder, rape, and devastation is appalling,” said D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement spokesperson Kica Matos in a statement. “These are the world’s most. powerless, most vulnerable people and our leaders have completely failed to live up to the American values.”

Participants at the Los Angeles rally included representitives of CHIRLA, SEIU, USW, SEIU Local 721, KRC, KIWA, UNITE-HERE, COFEM, Mi Familia Vota, CCC and FIRM.

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