Immigration reform theme of rally
“Immigrants work, the immigration system doesn’t.”That was the slogan on a young girl’s T-shirt that summed up the sentiment of many people at a student-organized immigration rally at Sayre Park in Glenwood Springs Monday afternoon. About 1,000 mostly Latino people packed the park to speak out about various aspects of immigration reform, most wearing white shirts to show solidarity. Some voiced anger that students who have lived in the United States most of their lives won’t be able to get scholarships or in-state tuition for college. Others wanted to show that they believe that immigrants, illegal or otherwise, are vital to the U.S. economy and culture. Some people at the rally waved American flags to show their pride, one wrapped himself in a Mexican flag like a cape, holding a small American flag in his right hand.Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson said people were well behaved at the rally and no arrests were made.
“We didn’t have a single lick of trouble out of it,” he said. Those who addressed the crowd did so mostly in Spanish, but Glenwood Springs High School parent Aide Arana made her message clear in English: Immigration is “a very emotional thing. My people are all united.” One of the rally’s organizers, GSHS junior Enrique Weber, said offstage that students held the rally for lawmakers to hear their pleas. “I think (laws) need to be changed so that students have to pay in-state tuition so they can further their education because a lot of times, their parents can’t afford to pay out-of-state tuition,” he said. “For legalization (of undocumented immigrants), Congress has to come up with a compromise between both sides of the argument and do something fair for everybody.”In her speech, Arana echoed Weber, saying that undocumented workers often hold two jobs and pay property taxes and Social Security, benefits from which they may never reap. “Our children’s education,” she said, “it’s not free. It’s been earned.”GSHS junior Monica Puentes said she skipped school Monday to show support for all Latinos.
“I’m a citizen here,” she said. “But it’s still my family. They came from Mexico as illegal immigrants, and now they have to become citizens. I do feel bad for the rest of the illegals here. I’m here just to let them know that they can count on me for anything.”Another rally supporter, Alejandra Rico, of Glenwood Springs, said she attended to help students organize. “It’s a day that all immigrants and pro-immigrants were showing support so that the laws that are going to be passed are fair,” Rico said. “I hope it gets the message through that we are good people and we are needed.”GSHS English-language-learners teacher Adriana Ayala, whose students helped organize the rally, took a personal day off from teaching to be with her students. “One thing I wish people would understand is that America is losing the potential that these kids have to offer,” she said of students who may not be able to go to college because of their citizenship status. “We have excellent students 3.5 (grade-point average) and up who I know are not able to get scholarships to go to college. These children were brought into the country when they were very young. They have no choice. It’s a human right to educate everybody when they desire to do that.”Ayala said she’s proud the students decided get permission to skip school and not to walk out of class. “I think these kids are being educated in class on a daily basis,” she said. “Today was a day that was bigger than themselves. It was a point they had to make.”
Hard working, but invisible on paperThe idea that America needs illegal immigrants was echoed by two Mexican workers, Enrique and Christian, who would only give their first names. Enrique, a native to Guerrero, Mexico, said through a Spanish translator that he doesn’t know his immigration status, but he hopes that by attending the rally, he’ll be able find out if and how immigration laws might change so he’ll know if he’ll be going to jail. He said he’s a construction worker in Glenwood Springs, adding that his boss let him off work Monday to “support your people.”Christian, from Nayarit, Mexico, also speaking through a Spanish translator, said that he hopes that the mass of people at the rally will send the message that illegal immigrants should be able to stay in the United States.
Enrique said undocumented workers have to work hard and do their jobs well, or their employers will find someone else to do the work. What’s more, he said in Spanish, white men are not going to “take a pick to the ground.” But workers like him will. Another man, who said through a Spanish translator that his name is Blas and is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, is a Glenwood-area painter who has lived in the United States for 30 years. A legal resident, Blas said he will soon gain citizenship. Despite his background, he said the immigration system needs no reform. “Everybody has a certain opportunity once they come here, a dream,” he said in Spanish.
SolidarityPlenty of Anglos attended the rally, some to show solidarity, others simply to find out what people are upset about. Sunny Stapelman had a different message: “No Amnesty for Illegals,” was printed on a sign that she carried while marching along the Grand Avenue sidewalk. “Illegal aliens are illegal just as simple as that,” she said. “They should go through the right channels. If they don’t, they should be sent home. Those who are legal should be standing for their adopted country, not for their fellow Mexicans or Hispanics. It’s not right. I would like to see more solidarity with Americans. If these people are Americans, they should act like Americans and support America, and not illegal relatives, brothers and sisters.”Ro Mead, director of the Carbondale Arts Council, came out to show solidarity with local Latinos. “I think our immigration rules, laws are absurd,” she said. “The Latino population has brought so much to us. I have friends who are Latina, and I think our immigration laws really need reform.” Mormon missionary Elder Shane Jones, of Salt Lake City, said the Latinos rallying for immigration rights “deserve to be here.”
“The way we are as missionaries, we get to see these people and see how hard they try to conform to the society here,” he said. “And I think it’s really good what they’re doing here.”Glenwood resident Andy Teitelman said he attended the rally to show solidarity, too. But he said the necessity for such rallies across the country is part of a political ploy orchestrated by Republicans. “These people have been here for years and years and years, and nobody said anything about it, and now, all of a sudden, when their (the Republicans’) poll numbers are going in the tank, and everybody’s realizing what thieves Republicans are, the Republicans are just trying to make some divisive ideas up so they can try to … steal the next election,” Teitelman said. The bottom line, he said, “I should hope the politicians are listening.”Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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