U groups organize walkout for immigrants’ rights, against war

La Raza Student Cultural Center is organizing the April 28 walkout with two other groups.

by Elizabeth Giorgi

Immigrants’ rights issues have been a hot topic as activists rallied against national legislation in major cities across the country in the past month.

La Raza Student Cultural Center hopes to bring some of the immigration issues to light this week by hosting Immigrant Rights Week.

Monday’s and Tuesday’s events included a workshop titled “Racism in Minnesota” and “Recognizing our Privilege,” which examined the role racism has in government and effective ways for nonwhite students to be involved in making change in their communities.

Speakers also discussed the closing of the General College, the Dream Act and HR4437, which is legislation passed in the U.S. House that would affect how the country handles illegal immigration.

Today La Raza will organize the April 28 walkout with the Anti-War Organizing League and Youth Against War and Racism to bring attention to the issues of the ongoing war, military recruitment in schools, immigrant rights and the closing of the General College.

La Raza board member Sylvia Gonzalez-Castro said the group wants to inform the student body about the current anti-immigration bills that have been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We want to make it apparent to the students at the ‘U’ that although they may not be directly affected by it, their friends, relatives, co-workers and people around them are,” she said.

La Raza also is supporting and organizing the national “A Day Without an Immigrant” walkout May 1, she said. For the event, the group is proposing that the whole second floor of Coffman Union should shut down and three centers have confirmed that they are shutting down for the day, she said.

“As a nation, we need to reflect our past immigrant stories, as the majority of us have ties to other countries,” Gonzalez-Castro said.

Department of Chicano studies director Louis Mendoza said students should remind themselves they are affected because the United States is a nation of immigrants.

“It is understandable why this might seem like an invisible issue,” he said. “Anybody who is knowledgeable about these issues knows that what happens now will have a huge impact on our future.”

Entrepreneurial management sophomore Keith Ischer said bringing attention to the issue with events on campus is important for people to gain understanding.

Ischer said illegal immigration indirectly affects everyone.

“It is kind of a dead cylinder on our economy,” he said.

Many illegal immigrants work in this country and send the money back to their home countries, which doesn’t contribute to the U.S. economy, he said.

First-year theater major and Anti-War Organizing League member Kathryn Wodtke said the walkout is important to bring attention to the issues.

The focus of the walkout is to protest the war in Iraq, but La Raza is endorsing it because the issues affect immigrants as well, she said.

“The fact is that this war has been going on for so long and young immigrants are being targeted with the whole free college tuition recruitment campaign; it appeals to low-income people like immigrants,” she said.

Wodtke said it is important for students to walk out to support issues such as ending the war, military recruitment and immigration legislation because it affects everyone.

“The immigrant rights issue is really strong right now and sets a good example,” she said.