Rally stresses immigrants’ value

About 3,000 people attended the rally at Powderhorn Park, an organizer said.

Sara Schweid

Cheers, chants and hand-painted signs filled Powderhorn Park on Monday as people rallied in support of immigrants rights.

Dubbed A Day Without Immigrants, the protest was a national attempt to draw attention to the positive economic contributions of immigrants, said Brian Payne, a member of the Workers’ Rights Committee and one of the organizers of the Minneapolis event.

The rally began at 3 p.m. and continued into the evening. About 3,000 people were there throughout the course of the day, Payne said.

“This is great,” said Eduardo Cardenas, one of the event’s organizers. “This is just the right kind of turnout.”

Committee members have been meeting since January to plan this event, Cardenas said.

“We’re answering an international call for this,” he said.

Protests have occurred since the U.S. House passed an immigration reform bill in December. The bill called for tighter border control, an increase in the penalty for illegal immigration and the deportation of all illegal immigrants.

According to estimates released by the Pew Hispanic Research Center in April, the undocumented immigrant population in Minnesota could range from 75,000 to 100,000. The center estimated the national undocumented population at about 11 million.

“To think that you can get rid of a community that’s such a big part of the economy is ridiculous,” said Louis Mendoza, chairman of the University’s department of Chicano studies.

Some who attended the rally hoped it would remind the public of their contribution.

Dina Petherbridge, an immigrant from Honduras, came to the rally from her home in Somerset, Wis.

“I hope that it’ll show people that we’re important economically, and that we give to the country, we don’t take,” Petherbridge said.

Many of the attendees were of Latino descent, but people of other backgrounds were present to show their support.

La Raza Student Cultural Center, a Chicano and latino group on campus, closed its doors today in support of the protest.

“This is important,” said Erica Torres, event coordinator for La Raza. “It shows people we will fight for our rights.”

Some student organizations closed Monday to support La Raza.

“It’s important to signify a united front,” said Jimmy Haung, outgoing president of the Asian-American Student Union, which closed its doors to support La Raza.

Other student groups that closed include the Queer Student Cultural Center, the American Indian Student Cultural Center, the Women’s Student Activist Collective and the Al-Madinah Cultural Center.

The Disabled Student Cultural Center also decided to support the walkout and their fellow student groups, said board member Tien Dang.

“That’s the decision they made, and we’re going to support it,” he said.

The Minneapolis rally was one of many walkouts across the country. The Associated Press reported turnout of more than 400,000 in Chicago and 300,000 in Los Angeles in similar rallies.

Antonio Rosell, an immigrant from Peru, closed his Minneapolis planning firm to attend the rally.

Rosell arrived in the United States 20 years ago as an illegal immigrant. He was granted amnesty in 1997 and was able to receive legal status. Many illegal immigrants are not so lucky, Rosell said.

“The people who are undocumented left families behind, they have taken incredible voyages and endured hardships to live here,” he said.

Still they must live in fear, Rosell said. He recalled nights when, if his father was late returning home, the family would wonder if he had been caught, and if they would be deported.

“It’s about human rights,” Rosell said. “We’re born with human rights and the fact that the government doesn’t want to recognize this is immoral.”