Rally for immigrant rights gets city approval

Immigrants march and rally for International Workers Day.

Standing in front of the window of a Mercado Central food stand at Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue, three well-groomed children, accompanied by their guardians, wait for their press conference to begin. At the conference Wednesday, Lalo, Pablo and Lupita Zamudio all talked about how their mother was deported and how the three are traveling to Washington D.C. in the hopes of convincing President Barack Obama to bring her back. Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition volunteer Brian Payne said detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants often puts their children in a difficult position and tears families apart. âÄúThere are kids that are terrified to leave their house,âÄù Payne said. âÄúTheyâÄôre terrified to go to school because they donâÄôt know if their parents are going to be home when they come back that evening. ItâÄôs creating an entire generation of people who live in constant fear.âÄù Detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants are actions MIRAC hopes to stop. The group looks to raise awareness on immigrant rights Friday in a march and rally to commemorate International Workers Day . Spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Bloomington, Minn. Tim Counts said his department has broad authority, but stays within the boundaries of authorized law enforcement. âÄúItâÄôs a frequent allegation that we somehow engage in random activity, somehow stopping people on the street, or in shopping parking lots, or randomly going to homes,âÄù Counts said. âÄúNothing could be further from the truth.âÄù The ICE office polices the five-state area including North and South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Counts said in 2008 ICE was responsible for deporting 4,944 immigrants. Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is a federal offense, he said. âÄúAny violation of any immigration law is grounds for arrest, detention and removal.âÄù In MIRACâÄôs battle against undocumented immigrant removal, the groupâÄôs rally message calls for the unconditional legalization of everyone in the United States. âÄúI see it as when any community is being attacked or the rights of any person are being taken away, it affects the entire community, and pulls down the rights and freedoms of everyone,âÄù he said. Payne said the legalization will create a level playing field for immigrants and native-born Americans. âÄúPeople wonâÄôt have to live in fear that if thereâÄôs a knock on the door they might be taking away your wife; or if youâÄôre not paid your wages that youâÄôre able to stand up and youâÄôre able to get paid the wages youâÄôre supposed to get paid,âÄù Payne said. MIRAC was initially denied a permit for the march, which began at 4 p.m. on Lake Street and 13th Avenue South, and was also denied permission to host a rally at Nicollet Avenue and 29th St reet after the march. Payne said organizers in the past have not had as much trouble, and that MIRAC has received march and rally permits for the same route and time in previous years. Chair of Minneapolis City Council Committee of Transportation and Public Work Sandy Colvin Roy said permits are often denied if public safety could be compromised. âÄúIf people are going to be marching on the side walk, thatâÄôs OK,âÄù Roy said. âÄúThatâÄôs public right of way, they can use that as long as they donâÄôt violate private property.âÄù If people want to march in the streets, however, traffic regulation and safety are major issues in receiving a permit, and Lake Street handles thousands of cars each day, she said. After MIRAC called several local officials, the City Council, Mayor Rybak and the Minneapolis Police Department approved the march and rally. âÄúItâÄôs a basic freedom of speech issue that youâÄôre allowed to march,âÄù Payne said, âÄúAnd youâÄôre allowed to have freedom of speech, express yourself without having to spend money on permits, without having to spend countless hours of so many different people to pass a resolution and all of that.âÄù Mariano Espinoza , executive director of Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, said this is âÄújust the right time for all of us to work together and to advocate and pass immigration reform,âÄù Espinoza has been working with the Zamudio family through MIFN and will travel with them to Washington D.C.

History of a cause

The Zamudio children were born in the United States; their mother Maria is an undocumented immigrant. On Nov. 5, 2008, the childrenâÄôs mother was detained by immigrant officials, and soon-thereafter deported back to Mexico. Since then, the children have gone to Mexico to work and go to school in the care of their parents. Two weeks ago, they returned to the United States hoping to speak with the president, first lady or a representative of the Obama administration. Espinoza began advocating for immigrantsâÄô rights after he experienced workplace injustice. âÄúI used to be a janitor in the Twin cities. I know how to clean dishes and toilets,âÄù he said. âÄúBut I became involved. I became a union organizer.âÄù In school, Lupita, a third grader, is learning simple math by working with money. On Wednesday, her uncle Jose, a resident of Worthington, Minn., stood close by, hands clasped in front of him. When Lupita mentioned money, he laughed and looked to the ceiling. According to a report released Thursday by the Center for Immigration Studies, Minnesota has had one of the largest declines of immigrant employment in the nation from 2007 to the end of March 2009. The unemployment rate for immigrants âÄî legal and illegal âÄî nationwide increased by 5.6 percent during the same period. Many immigrant workers are afraid to stand up for basic rights, such as getting paid minimum wages, Payne said, and that affects all workers, regardless of citizen status. He said the rally will bring those issues into public light. âÄúThatâÄôs part of what the march is,âÄù he said, âÄústepping out of the shadows, reclaiming that space and being able to feel safe in the community.âÄù Alejandra Cruz-Nava, a board member of Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, said immigrant reform is essential because current policies affect society as a whole. Cruz-Nava moved from Mexico to the United States nine years ago, when she said she didnâÄôt know a word of English. âÄúWe contribute to the economy of this country, and we should be able to have the same rights as everybody else,âÄù she said.