Thursday marked International Workers’ Day, where supporters of immigration rights gathered at the state Capitol and University student groups closed their offices for solidarity.
“We’re all the same; we speak different languages, but we’re all the same,” participant Yunuén Ávila said.
Ávila was one of many Central High School students who gathered to send a message to lawmakers.
Ávila, who’s from Mexico, said her government back home doesn’t give her and her family the opportunity to work.
She compared the motivations of migrants of the past to those of the present.
“Back then, they did it to find happiness,” Ávila said. She added that Latinos today are trying to do the same.
Congress denied an immigration reform bill last year and immigration policies continue to be a concern.
La Raza Student Cultural Center asked all other student cultural centers on campus to close their offices and march for solidarity. Five groups responded by shutting down their offices.
Tracy Texley, a La Raza member, said marching and collaborating with other groups are nonviolent ways to educate people and get noticed.
Participants of the march held up the American flag along with signs that said “we’re all immigrants” and “we’re not criminals.”
State immigration issues
Earlier this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced executive actions that would combat illegal immigration.
Pawlenty’s plan included collaboration between police officers and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to find more undocumented immigrants.
But St. Paul and Minneapolis police refused to work with the state on this issue.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer said agreeing to work with ICE on reporting undocumented immigrants would interfere with public safety.
“If someone is afraid to call the police because they think they’re going to get reported to immigration they’re not going to call us,” he said. “That’s not our goal; our goal is to serve all of the people who live in the city.”
Pawlenty introduced another policy this year to enhance penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants, according to the govenor’s office.
Chicano studies program director Louis Mendoza said the United States economy and the business sector has benefited from having immigrant workers – both undocumented and documented.
“(The United States) has relied on temporary workers in this country for most of the twentieth century to build our economy up,” he said.
The current immigration policies don’t allow as many immigrant work visas, and families often wait years to bring relatives in the United States, Mendoza said, which is why people end up breaking the law.
“It doesn’t match the reality of the demand for spaces,” he said.