April 10, 2006
Large immigration rallys were planned nationwide today, with activists protesting against a crackdown on illegal immigrants. In Dallas, as many as half a million people marched downtown to support legalizing undocumented workers. Protestors hope to persuade lawmakers to pass immigration reform that would legalize an estimated 11 million undocumented workers.
In Charlottesville, dozens of Uva students held their own immigration rally Monday on grounds to raise awareness on the issue. The students are protesting a bill in Congress that would make it a felony for illegal immigrants to cross into the United States.
The students, many of Latino descent, argue immigrants shouldn't be criminalized for trying to give themselves a better life. Today's rally at Uva is part of a nationwide grassroots effort to raise awareness on the Immigration Reform Bill currently in Congress.
Organizer Arie Gonzales said of the issue that, "obviously we need more security at our borders--that goes without saying--but we need something that's compassionate. Something that doesn't turn 11 million people into felons as the original version of this bill [does]. We need something that opens the door for them tow work here legally, and to not be exploited."
"I want to show that UVa has a wider community, because a lot of times we get stuck in our own bubble and so we don't really know the news outside," said Protest organizer Patrick Martinez.
Many of the protesters, such as Martinez, are Latinos from immigrant families--hard-working families, he says, that are looking for a better life. Today, they floated around a petition asking lawmakers to kill the bill.
Faviola Rubio is the first in her immigrant family to go to college. Her parents have high hopes that she will accomplish the "American Dream" and become a professional. Under the proposed law, future illegal immigrants would be stripped of the same opportunity.
"To even be criminalized and sent back to their countries for just a dream of a better life doesn't seem fair," said Rubio.
However, some lawmakers claim illegal aliens should not be given the same rights as those who come legally and that they are even taking away some American jobs. Rubio sees it differently.
"[Immigrants] just jump to the opportunity, those jobs are all offered to all Americans and I don't see why they should be penalized for that," said Rubio.
By banding together with their signs, t-shirts and flags, they hope to send a message that will travel all the way to Capitol Hill.
Now it's up to the Senate to see if the bill will move forward. Protesters like Rubio are hoping that won't happen.