It was nearly 5 a.m. Tuesday when Brad Wilkins arrived home from Washington, D.C.
On his way to work just a few hours later, Wilkins said he was glad he had gone to the D.C. March for Jobs rally.
“I met black leaders from around the country who I wouldn’t have met otherwise and who I plan on staying in touch with, even if we don’t agree on politics in general,” he said.
“It’s good to learn and listen to people who you don’t normally get a chance to talk to and hear their points of view. And it opened up dialogue.”
Wilkins, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, was one of about 10 local residents who attended the event Monday.
Organized by the Black American Leadership Alliance, the rally’s purpose was to prevent the passage of the proposed immigration reform bill. The alliance’s website contends that amnesty would “be costly for all Americans, but will harm black American workers more than any other group.”
Bob Frey, chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Alliance in Forsyth County, also attended the event. While most of the speakers were African American, the bulk of the crowd was white.
“I thought we would be the minority in the crowd, instead of being the massive majority,” he said. “If the Tea Party Patriots people had not shown up for that march, there would have been nobody there.”
Wilkins said as far as D.C. marches go, the turnout was pretty low, with maybe 1,500 people in attendance, he said.
“It was not the impact they intended or I would have liked to have seen, because that’s a small crowd,” Wilkins said. “But in the longer run ... it introduced activists from different political spectrums, different racial groups and gave them the opportunity to see there is more commonality in their concerns than they would have known ahead of time and I think a lot of connections were made and friendships were made.”
While reports, including a Pew Research Center study released last year, indicate a sharp decline in the number of illegal immigrants crossing over into America, there’s still a large number of undocumented immigrants living in the country.
Both Wilkins and Frey said they are against any legalization or amnesty program for those people.
Frey said he and others at the rally are not against immigration reform, they “just think it can be better than an amnesty thing.”
According to Wilkins, the plan needs to focus on border security, followed by enforcing existing laws.
“Our economy is still stumbling and to think that we would pass an immigration bill that would, in a sense, give amnesty to illegal immigrants … most economists I talk to believe that by doing that, you would just attract more illegal immigrants, rather than fix the problem,” he said.
“To dump tens of millions more illegal immigrants on a system that’s already struggling to keep up with the poor that we have and the jobless that we have and all the demands on our health care system, it just seems to me a real foolish thing to do.”