March champions immigrants’ rights

by Emma Carew

Hundreds of community members gathered Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of Carne Asada to advocate immigrants’ rights in Minnesota.

With cries of “Si se puede” (yes it can (be done) ) and “The people united will never be defeated,” community members and activists advocated reform in immigration policies in the state and at the federal level.

The Alliance for Fair Federal Immigration Reform of Minnesota and its member groups sponsored Sunday’s March for Immigrant Rights. La Raza Student Cultural Center and the Chicano studies department sponsored the event.

Mariano Espinoza of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network said the march was part of a week of activities to support immigrants’ rights and immigration reform around the country.

Espinoza said Somali, Ethiopian, Hmong and many Hispanic community members had gathered to support workers rights and civil liberties, family reunification and access to higher education for undocumented students.

The march had a good turnout, La Raza board member Sylvia Gonzalez-Castro said.

“I’m happy to see the diversity in the crowd,” she said.

Mary Gonzalez, a student at Folwell Middle School in Minneapolis, said she attended the march so her community could have the same opportunities as other students to get jobs and access to higher education.

A bill called the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has been introduced in the state Senate which would allow undocumented students living in Minnesota to attend state colleges and qualify for in-state tuition.

Sandra Levine of the Jewish Community Action said her organization was wearing yellow armbands with the word Immigrant printed as a symbol of resistance to intolerance.

The yellow armbands were similar to ones the Nazis forced the Jewish community to wear during the Holocaust.

“Basically all of us were immigrants at one time,” she said.

The crowd carried makeshift drums, colorful puppets and an array of signs as they marched from Lake Street and Chicago Avenue to the Holy Rosary Church.

The messages on the signs included “Viva la revolucion!” and “Gov. Pawlenty Suck.”

The march began with a rally on Chicago Avenue. Traditional Aztec dancers opened the march, along with an American Indian blessing and words from a Mendota Heights rabbi.

Chalchihuitlu Cuauhtemoc, one of the dancers, said he would like to see all immigrant communities unite and demonstrate that they are an important part of society.

“This gathering is significant because we’re coming together with our hopes and prayers to end this hatred against immigrants,” he said.

Theater and women studies junior Xanthia Walker said she and her friends attended the march after spending a month on the Arizona-Mexico border advocating migrant-workers’ rights.

“I love that (the activism) is happening now, so far north,” she said. “People are really opening their eyes.”

Walker said she feels immigration is an issue that is everywhere in society, but that not everyone chooses to see.

The march ended at Holy Rosary church with an educational forum.

Amina Arte, who took part in the 2003 immigrant workers’ freedom ride that went to Washington, D.C., spoke to the crowd, as well as Amparo Perez, a student, and Espinoza.

Louis Mendoza, chairman of the Chicano studies department and event volunteer, said he thought it was important to raise the quality of the discussion about immigrants’ rights.

“It’s an opportunity to dispel ignorance and fear about anti-immigrant discourse,” he said.