By Maria Leon
TUCSON, Arizona – Tired of promises and being the target of laws that seek to criminalize them, hundreds of immigrants took to the streets here and in other Arizona cities on Thursday to call for quick approval of immigration reform.
“Today is International Human Rights Day and so we’re marching to defend our rights,” Jennifer Allen, Arizona director of the Border Action Network, told Efe.
“We also want our senators and politicians to fight for our rights and be leaders promoting – and pressuring for – approval of immigration reform,” the activist said.
In Tucson, about 100 people, most of them woman pushing baby carriages or strollers, marched to the local offices of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl from where they then walked about eight miles to the offices of his colleague, John McCain.
The group delivered at the offices of both lawmakers the names of 13,000 residents of southern Arizona who are asking for their support for immigration reform that will regularize the status of the millions of undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States.
“Arizona is one of the states with many anti-immigrant forces, with state laws that penalize undocumented people, so it’s from here that a ‘call’ has to go out to defend the basic rights of every individual which are human rights,” Allen said.
On Nov. 24, a state law entered into force that obligates employees at government agencies in Arizona to report to immigration authorities undocumented people who come to their offices to request public benefits.
The implementation of the law is generating fear and lack of confidence among immigrant families who come to government offices to ask for help like food stamps for their U.S.-born children.
“Many people are afraid of asking for basic services. The mothers are even afraid of taking their children to medical appointments. This is one of several effects of the anti-immigrant wave we’re experiencing,” the activist emphasized.
Yolanda Medrano said she came to the march to fight for the rights of the children since, in her opinion, “there are many people” in Arizona who do not want the children of undocumented people to have any rights.
It is expected that next week Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will present an immigration reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We want immigration reform, so that all these attacks against our community stop,” Graciela Bernal told Efe. The Tucson resident said she had a friend whom authorities arrested in her own home after she had gone to a government office to request public benefits.
“We’ve been waiting for immigration reform for years, and nothing ever happens,” she said.
Arizona is one of the states with the greatest number of laws against illegal immigration, among them sanctions on employers that penalize businesses that knowingly hire undocumented people.
In Arizona, undocumented people must pay foreign student tuition when they enroll in universities and community colleges.
“It’s very sad what is happening in Arizona. We’re seeing many families who are being separated because one or both of the parents have been deported,” said Maria Valenzuela, the mother of three small children.
She added that many of her neighbors were interested in participating in the march but they were too afraid to thereby potentially publicly label themselves as undocumented immigrants and decided to stay at home. EFE