05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

200,000 Is Just the Beginning

Yesterday, I stood in front of 200,000 very hopeful people who were in Washington asking the president and Congress to restore order and common sense to our broken immigration system. All around me, I could feel the power and energy radiating from everyday people from all backgrounds and all corners of our country who have seen first hand the devastation caused by a broken immigration system that separates families, hurts workers, undermines our economy, and goes against the values that we as Americans hold dear. We came together on the National Mall for a new beginning to our national movement.

We stood together united in our belief that America's future depends on economic justice, human rights, family unity, and reviving the American Dream for those born here and those who join us as immigrants. Labor leaders, civil rights leaders, students and young people, citizens and noncitizens, immigrants and those from families who have been in the U.S. for centuries--all spoke with one voice on the urgency of addressing the immigration issue. It is unacceptable for a country that values family, freedom, and opportunity to have an immigration system where on average 40 people are deported every hour, and an immigrant loses his or her life every day because we have failed to fix the morally bankrupt public policies that govern who can come and stay legally in our country.

We remember the promises that were made two years ago on the campaign trail that are yet to be kept. We also remember the energy and excitement in the Latino community that saw Latinos stand up and participate in our democratic process in 2008 like never before--our effect on the outcome of the elections is undeniable.

But this is not just a Latino issue. Our Black brothers and sisters stood with us too. In the Summer of 1963, they stood on practically the same expanse of grass on the National Mall where we stood Sunday, calling for justice and opportunity and for America to live up to her highest ideals. Yesterday, we stood shoulder to shoulder, ready to work together to achieve economic and social justice for all Americans.

Dozens of members of Congress took time to stand with us on this historic stage too, but we need more of them to add their voices and their votes to our cause. The 200,000 voters and future voters who stood on the Mall yesterday will hold their legislators accountable for inaction on this issue.

This campaign is just getting started, and the work will continue. Congress is receiving calls in favor of reform as we speak. Coordinated in-district visits and a scorecard of where legislators stand on this vexing issue are forthcoming, keeping the momentum and energy from yesterday's event alive. Those legislators who roadblock this issue, as well as those who choose to sand on the sidelines, will certainly be held accountable by Latino voters, the fastest-growing segment of the American electorate.

It's time for our elected leaders in Washington to stand up and be counted. The time for action is now. Two hundred thousand people stood up for comprehensive immigration reform, and this is just the beginning. It's time for our leaders in Washington to stand with us and for us and demand concrete action. Not doing so will have serious consequences for American workers, America's economy, American families, and the future of our nation.