By ALEJANDRO CANO
Published: Thursday, May 20, 2010 7:23 PM CDT
Fontana Herald News
CLAREMONT — Hundreds of Inland Empire residents who support rights for immigrants marched through the streets of Claremont last Sunday morning and rallied near Pomona College, where Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was the keynote speaker at the commencement ceremony.
Holding signs that read “Alto Arizona” (Stop Arizona), “I only Look Illegal,” “End Workers and Corner Raids,” and “Stop Ripping Families Apart,” about 350 marchers sent Secretary Napolitano a loud message as she received an honorary degree and delivered a brief speech to thousands of attendees.
Organized by the May 16 Coalition, which is made up of university students, community leaders, immigrant workers, professors, union members, and community-based organizations in the Inland Valley region, the march began at the Claremont Greyhound Station, where immigration raids have taken place, and ended at Shelton Park, where Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Services Center, urged Napolitano to take action immediately.
“Secretary Napolitano must take legal action against oppressive local and state immigration policies, including Arizona’s SB1070, immediately. Secretary Napolitano can show the leadership that we need to stop racial profiling, stop the separation of families, and end the criminalization of immigrant workers,” said Amaya.
The Coalition alleges that Napolitano’s policies have resulted in more than 50 local raids in the last year, hundreds of firings through the E-Verify program, and the implementation of the 287 (g) program, which permits local authorities to perform immigration law enforcement.
“I have witnessed the Border Patrol raids and their cooperation with the local police first-hand. We want to tell Secretary Napolitano that her draconian enforcement policies do not represent the American values of opportunity and equality that we hold dear and upon which this country was founded,” said Eddie Gonzalez, a representative of the Inland Empire Day Laborer Congress.
Although most faculty members were busy listening to Napolitano’s remarks, members of the Intercollegiate Department of Chicano-Latino Studies at the Claremont Colleges expressed their support for the immigrant community, calling for the respect of fundamental rights.
“As people of conscience, we call for 1) an immediate end to the current practice of raids, detentions and deportations that divide the families and violate rights, 2) meaningful legislation which enables real immigration reform, and 3) a fair path to citizenship,” said the professors in a statement.
The protesters gathered in front of the Andrew Carnegie Building, filling stairs as they chanted the popular refrain, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”
ACROSS the street, a small group of Minutemen expressed their opposition to illegal immigration. They attacked Napolitano for allegedly not doing enough raids and deportations to safely secure the borders.
“Napolitano should round them up and deport them all ... damn roaches,” said Bill Stevenson, who supports Arizona’s SB 1070. “They don’t belong here, they only cause us trouble.”
On the grounds of Pomona College, Napolitano stated the issue has been passed from administration to administration without ever receiving the necessary attention it deserves for a solution.
“Today is not a day to debate policies, but the status quo is no longer acceptable. You see and hear today in this community and nationally the issue of immigration is part of our national debate,” said Napolitano in front of 375 graduates.
Doris Padilla, 60, a native of Bolivia, expressed her frustration and rage with demonstrators, saying they have no right to protest on a day that is filled with so much happiness for graduates. Padilla, 60, said she migrated to this country with a student visa, becoming a U.S. citizen later in life.
“They could protest any other day but today; today is their (graduates’) day. These people should go home, they are annoying,” said Padilla, a La Verne resident. “They ask for amnesty but don’t deserve anything. They are a disgrace to my race ... giving us Latinos a bad name.”