Posted on Sun, Apr. 02, 2006 by the Miami Herald
Thousands across U.S. march over immigration
Continuing protests and marches across the nation are injecting the debate over immigration with passion and perspective.
The immigration debate continued to roll across the country Saturday. Residents in cities from Miami to New York to Contra Mesa, Calif., added their voices to the thousands who have spoken out against congressional attempts to reform immigration laws.
None of the protests drew crowds like the 500,000 people who marched in Los Angeles last weekend, but the sentiment was just as resolute.
The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved a measure that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. without the proper immigration paperwork. The Senate is now debating a measure that takes the opposite approach — giving the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. a chance at citizenship.
In New York, supporters of immigration rights formed a line stretching more than a mile long Saturday as they marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, waving flags from more than a dozen countries.
Heralded by a cacophony of trumpets, whistles and drums, the crowd of mostly Latin Americans gathered in downtown Brooklyn.
The marchers mustered in a neighborhood settled by the Dutch, crossed a bridge designed by a German, and finished in a square at the edge of Chinatown in an area that once held the Irish slums depicted in the 2002 film Gangs of New York.
On the way, they passed the Statue of Liberty, hot dog carts run by Middle Easterners, taxis driven by Russians and police officers speaking Chinese.
More than 10,000 people flooded Foley Square, turning it into a sea of colorful banners and echoing noise. The crowd came dressed in the colors of Mexico, Uruguay and Ecuador, but just as many draped themselves in red, white and blue.
”If you hurt immigrants you are hurting America,” read a sign held by one marcher. ”We are your economy,” said another.
Another marcher, a woman from Mexico who spoke no English, carried a sign reading, “I cleaned up ground zero.”
”Si se puede!” the crowd chanted, in Spanish. “Yes, we can.”
”We came to say that we’re here,” said George Criollo, who arrived in New York a decade ago from Cuenca, Ecuador. “We have to speak, legal or illegal. We have to speak about this issue.”
In Costa Mesa, Calif., about 500 people protested the crackdown on illegal immigrants.
”Aiding my kids should not be a crime,” said Dagoberto Zavala, 52, who immigrated from El Salvador to the Santa Ana area, and said he brought his two children into the United States illegally. “Congress needs to know the laws we have don’t work.”
In Three Points, Ariz., members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, who are concerned about the continued flow of illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico, gathered Saturday with lawn chairs, binoculars and cell phones for a new monthlong campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the issue.
A year after their first watch-and-report operation along the border in southeastern Arizona, Minuteman volunteers embarked on a much larger effort in the busy migrant-smuggling corridor.
”I’m concerned about what’s not being done by the government — hasn’t been done, apparently,” said J. Glenn Sorensen, a retired school administrator now living in Flagstaff.
Sorensen, who was not involved with the Minutemen last year, said he thinks the organization has accomplished part of its intended purpose already, “to draw national attention to an insecure border. I don’t think anybody wants to close the border — I certainly don’t. Basically, I think they need to be secure.”
At a rally kicking off the effort at a remote southern Arizona ranch Saturday afternoon, politicians and activists opposing illegal immigration gave fiery speeches calling for more border control. At least 200 mostly older men and women heard speakers praise their efforts and call the Minutemen heroes.
Don Goldwater, a Republican candidate for Arizona governor and a nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, said he had a message for President Bush. ”Build us that wall now,” he said, referring to a portion of the House measure that would add 700 miles of fences along the border.
He promised that if elected, he would put illegal immigrants in a tent city on the border and use their labor to build the wall.