Immigrants march for U.S. rights

Yareli Fuentes, 6, center, carries a sign that reads “We Want the American Dream” while marching Saturday with her Grand Junction family around Sherwood Park to North Avenue and back. Hundreds participated in the rally for comprehensive immigration reform.

If ever the time was right for immigration reform, it’s now, hundreds of participants chanted during a rousing march and rally Saturday along North Avenue.

For Danya Galindo, 21, of Grand Junction, immigration reform would help keep her family together.

“My family is not from here and I want them to be here,” she said while holding a sign asking U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., to back reform efforts.

“A lot of people think racism is over, but it’s not,” she said among throngs of people waving American flags and marching with their children in tow.

“We work just as hard as anyone. There are bad people here and in Mexico. You just can’t judge us for what some bad people do.”

Supporters of immigration reform are hopeful that a more direct path to citizenship and other protections are possible for immigrants in light of a national immigration reform package introduced earlier this month in part by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Bennet is part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who has helped craft the bill.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., also has expressed support for the measure.

Several signs Saturday called on Tipton to back the bill.

Tipton has said he is opposed to offering amnesty to individuals living in the U.S. illegally, but he is in favor of tighter border controls and a new visa system for immigrant workers.

“We understand the immigration system is broken and needs to change,” said Eddie Soto, the Western Slope organizer of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “It’s probably the best bill we’re going to see in a while.”

Officially labeled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, the package includes “a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the country without documentation. It increases the number of visas available for workers specializing in high-tech industries, eliminates the unworkable H2A system for agriculture workers, replacing it with a new streamlined system.

“It creates a guest worker program agreed to by labor and business for lesser-skilled workers to come into the country to meet labor demands in industries such as tourism and hospitality,” according to Bennet’s website.

Nicole Bernal Ruiz, program director with the Hispanic Affairs Project, said her father, a farmer in Loma, is in support of the reform package.

“Undocumented farm workers, those are the ones who would benefit,” she said.

Saturday’s rally was timed to coordinate with hearings by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the comprehensive immigration reform package,  Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition said in a news release.

On Saturday, residents in Pueblo also rallied over the issue. Group leaders said another rally is planned in Greeley on Wednesday.

Along with immigration reform, supporters distributed petitions Saturday in support of allowing immigrants access to Colorado driver’s licenses. Senate Bill 251 passed Colorado’s Senate on a voice vote on Wednesday, with amendments that the licenses would look different than those for citizens and they could not be used for federal purposes or for voting.


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