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Immigration is Personal


Notes on the March on Washington, October 8 2013

Alberto Avendaño/op-ed | 10/9/2013, 9:23 p.m.
Immigration is Personal
Brando López Brandon López de 7 años, bajo un cartel, observó como la policía se llevaba a quienes cometían desobediencia civil bloqueando una calle principal junto al Capitolio. | Alfredo DuartePereira para ETL

The October 8th March on the Capitol in Washington DC, and the other demonstrations in at least 20 cities throughout the nation, did not match the clamorous outpouring of rage and vindication of the April 2006 demonstrations.

However, the same sentiment remains: a broken immigration system needs to be fixed, and the attacks on vulnerable immigrant families and the mass deportations have to stop.

Tuesday at the Mall in DC, Los Tigres del Norte and Lila Downs played the bittersweet soundtrack of thousands of immigrant Hispanic families disappointed in President Barack Obama’s message of “No se puede”.

That is why those who gathered in front of Congress repeatedly yelled, “¡Sí se puede!” from the bottom of their lonely hearts.

Tuesday at the Mall in DC, Los Tigres del Norte and Lila Downs played the bittersweet soundtrack of thousands of immigrant Hispanic families disappointed in President Barack Obama’s message of “No se puede”.

Ultimately, the faces of Latino men, women and children showed more hopelessness than hope as they walked away from the Mall in the early evening of a grey Tuesday.

The march ended on an act of civil disobedience that resulted in the arrest of 200 people, among them the co-founder of the 1960s civil rights movement John Lewis, D-Ga.; Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Joseph Crowley and Charles Rangel, both D-N.Y.; Al Green, D-Texas; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Gustavo Torres of CASA de Maryland, Jaime Contreras (SEIU) and Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutiérrez were also arrested.

Legislators and activists were making a point: this is not politics, this is personal.

After two decades of working with the Hispanic population, writing about Latino concerns, and listening to the stories of our communities, there is always a heart breaking common denominator: the story of people who convinced themselves that if they worked hard enough and achieved enough, they would be rewarded with citizenship.

They thought that in this country you could earn it.

María Gómez came to the demonstration with her two children, Emily and Chris, whose father Carlos Gómez lives in Honduras following his deportation. Alexander Cáceres is a Salvadorean who has been living for almost 30 years in this country and came to the march from Silver Spring, Maryland, to show his solidarity. Lorena Ramírez, Guatemalan, took time off from her job at a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia to be present at the Mall.

Dereck Funes is 8 years old and came with his Salvadorean mother from Silver Spring, Maryland. And 7 year old Brendon López observed from under a cardboard sign as the police arrested those blocking a main street near the Capitol. The sign read, “Keep families together –keep my daddy here”.

For the English language American media, the massive rally at the Mall might have been unimportant news, but for millions of Latinos in this country there is much at stake. Singing Los Tigres del Norte ballads and yelling slogans of hope —this is what dreams are made of.