Denver march urges Dems to back immigrant rights

DENVER—Thousands of protesters marched through Mile High City Aug. 28 chanting “Immigrant rights are human rights” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, John McCain has got to go!”

They carried hundreds of signs and banners supporting Barack Obama for president and denouncing the dragnet arrests, criminalization and deportation of undocumented immigrant workers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The march and rally was sponsored by the “We Are America DNC March & Rally For Immigrant Rights,” a broad coalition of labor, religious organizations and other groups working for immigrant rights.

The crowd assembled at a park on Denver’s majority Mexican American west side and marched on a freeway to Lincoln Park downtown with hundreds of motorists honking their horns and flashing the victory sign in sympathy.

The march came on the last day of the Democratic National Convention; among the marchers were DNC delegates like former Denver Mayor Federico Pena who walked in the vanguard of the vast crowd. “It’s important that all of us as Americans defend the rights of immigrant workers,” he told the World. “They have come here to work and sustain their families and the economy.”

The next president, and the Congress, he added, “must pass comprehensive immigration reform so people can come out of the shadows. Immigrants are coming to our country and making contributions today just as they did for the past two centuries.”

The We Are America platform urged the DNC to support “just and fair immigration reform,” to stop the criminalization of immigrants; pass the “Dream Act” that permits children of undocumented families to attend college; to stop building walls on the U.SD.-Mexican border; stop the “deaths in the desert” and end the ICE raids.

Marlinda Mendoza , a Denver resident, pushed a stroller carrying two of her five children. “We’re all equal. We need the same rights as everyone else,” she told the World. “We’re hard workers. We don’t deserve the laws that are in force today that treat workers like criminals. A lot of my family has been affected by these raids. Children come home from school and their parents are gone, arrested and deported.”

The Agape International Spiritual Center & Choir, a multiracial singing group based in Culver City, CA. sang the opening night of the DNC. They joined the immigrant rights march singing “The Morning Chant.” Choir Director, Rev. Carolyn Wilkin, told the World, “We’re sending a message of love, peace and harmony in the world. We are a multicultural, diverse, spiritual organization and we know we are all united.”

“Viva Obama” with several chapters from Oakland to San Diego walked behind their banner. Vicente Rodriguez said “We like Obama a lot better than McCain. McCain backed off saying that he supports immigration reform. He said ‘Security comes first, comprehensive immigration reform second.’ But we know that issues left to ‘second’ never get done.”

He sharply assailed the ICE raids. “They are terrorizing communities, not only the undocumented but the documented as well. These raids are taking away the breadwinners of families leaving children behind who are U.S. citizens without food and shelter. This is nothing but terrorism.”

Cesar Munoz, a Spanish language teacher at Colorado Mountain College was wearing a mock-German army uniform with the insignia of the Nazi SS on the collar and the initials “ICE” on the cap. “These ICE raids are a violation of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he told the World. “They are holding people at detention centers. When you are locked up, you lose your human rights.” Just then a TV crew turned its camera on him. Munoz clicked his heels and his arm shot up in a “Seig heil” salute.

Ivonn Cruz was holding a sign “Nuestra voz es nuestra voto!” She too was marching with her children. “I am a member of Local 14 of Unite-HERE,” she told the World. “I work at the Hyatt Regency, a union hotal in Denver.” She said her sign reflects “that a lot of Latinos are now registered to vote. We broke records. We will make a difference in this election. The people are ready for change. I think Obama is the right person to lead the country.”