Sunday, August 27, 2006

Part II of II: Immigrant-Rights-Agenda Report = 08-27-2006

Optimized for Firebox

Part II of II: Immigrant-Rights-Agenda Report = 08-27-2006 ~Domingo


Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006
Citizen workshops help immigrants find path
By STAN OKLOBDZIJA / Vida en el Valle

SAN FRANCISCO — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was in San Francisco last Monday promoting citizenship as part of a series of workshops hosted by Congressional Democrats nationwide.

The workshops, which gave immigrants a chance to speak with attorneys and experts about ways to achieve citizenship, were put on to counter the string of illegal immigration hearings Congressional Republicans held earlier this year.

"We are there to face them down and say, 'We want real reform,'" Pelosi said. Pelosi also used the appearance in her San Francisco district to renew her support for the McCain-Kennedy bill that would overhaul the country's immigration system.

The McCain-Kennedy Bill would create a temporary worker program for unskilled work, as well as allow those here illegally to apply for a change in status, provided they pay a fine and back taxes, as well as demonstrate a solid work history.

The bill does not criminalize illegal presence in the United States, something that a bill passed by the House last December would do. HR 4437 authored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., would make being in the United States without valid documentation a felony and would extend felony status to anyone aiding an undocumented immigrant to remain in the United States.

Pelosi said the chances for comprehensive immigration reform this year was low unless President Bush himself intervened and called on his party to set aside the House bill.

The turnout at Monday's event shocked organizer Richard Wada of San Francisco. With about 150 people lined up before the doors had even opened, it far surpassed organizers expectations of "a few people for a photo-op," he said.

Wada said workshops such as the one held Monday were important in helping combat the misinformation and rumor that's often pervasive in immigrant communities.

"Lots of people have come into my office and asked about the new immigration bill that has been passed," Wada said, clarifying that in fact no such thing has occurred.

María Avila, 67, of Petaluma had come to San Francisco to have her immigration status reviewed. Originally from Yucatán, Mexico, Avila said the workshop was the first time she'd looked to change her status from resident alien, though she'd been in the country for 10 years.

She hoped becoming an American citizen would allow her to vote for immigration reform, so people who'd gone 15 or 20 years without seeing their families could go back to México legally, she said.

Twenty other Congressional Democrats will be holding similar workshops, including Zoe Lofgren of San José, Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Fresno Congressman Jim Costa will not be holding workshops, according to their district offices.


August 23, 2006 =
Arcadia Mayor Cracks Down On Illegal Immigrants
Some Residents Say Plans Are Racist

ARCADIA, Wis. -- Arcadia's new mayor has plans to curb illegal immigration in his Trempealeau County community, but some residents say those plans are racist.

Arcadia is home to an increasing number of Latinos because of good jobs at two big employers -- Ashley Furniture and Gold'n Plump chicken.

Mayor John Kimmel wants to make English the official language of Arcadia. He wants to create an "illegal alien task force" that would forward complaints to federal authorities and hold landlords accountable for renting to illegal immigrants. The mayor's ideas have generated divided opinions.

Mateo Barrientos, who runs a Mexican grocery store in Arcadia, said it feels like racism. Barrientos and about 50 other residents, most of them Latino, met recently to discuss Kimmel's ideas, which many said will stereotype Latinos and lead to profiling.

Retired high school teacher Mel Nelson said immigration is a national issue. Instead of antagonizing people, Nelson said the community should welcome newcomers and get them involved in activities. Kimmel also wants to regulate flying foreign flags.


Wed Aug 23, 2006 =
U.S. ends 'catch-and-release' at border
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

Nearly all non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught sneaking into the United States are being held until they can be returned to their home countries, the Bush administration said Wednesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this marks the end of the "catch-and-release" practice that for years helped many illegal immigrants stay in the United States unhindered.

"There is a real deterrent effect to this policy," Chertoff told reporters in Washington, pointing to a 20,000 drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught crossing the southwest border between this summer and the same period last year.

"Although we're not ready to declare victory — we've got a lot more work to do — it is encouraging and it is something that ought to inspire us to continue to push forward," Chertoff said.

The new policy generally does not apply to Mexicans, who are almost immediately returned to Mexico after being stopped by Border Patrol agents, said John Torres, detention and removal director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of Homeland Security.

Most of the more than 1 million illegal immigrants who sneak over the southwest border annually are Mexicans, he said.

Of 2,010 non-Mexican immigrants stopped in the first two weeks of August, only 26 have been released — a 99 percent detention rate, Homeland Security data show.

Moreover, the immigrants are detained for an average of 21 days — down from 90 days a year ago — before they are taken home, Torres said.

Immigrant rights advocates have questioned whether the border crackdown actually deters people from sneaking into the U.S., noting that some illegal immigrants may just be shifting entry points to cross at more remote and dangerous areas.

But Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar said far fewer immigrants have been seen at traditional staging points in Mexico, where thousands of people often meet up before trying to cross the border.

"We're not seeing that any more," Aguilar said.

Homeland Security also is putting more technology in remote parts of the 2,000-mile border to detect immigrants trying avoid U.S. agents, Chertoff said. "As it gets harder, fewer people will try to come," he said.

In May, President Bush called for deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to the southwest border. The move was widely seen as an election-year nod to conservatives who have long complained about that porous border and the growing number of illegal immigrants in the country.

About 11 million illegal immigrants were living in the U.S. at the start of this year, compared with an estimated 8.5 million living in the country in January 2000, Homeland Security data show.


On the Net:
Homeland Security Department:


August 23, 2006 =
Masondo unveils plan to 'welcome' immigrants

By Anna Cox

Migrants to Johannesburg are going to be made to feel welcome in future. This is the promise that Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo made during his address at a Migration and Urban Governance conference being held jointly with other African and European countries in Johannesburg this week.

"The city has decided to adopt a progressive approach with regards to ensuring that migrants feel that they are part of an inclusive city.

"Through our community development department, we will be establishing a draft City Support Strategy for Migrants document and this will be ready by December.

Addressing xenophobia

"It will be guided by the city's human development strategy which addresses poverty, inequality and social exclusion," he said.

One of the key outputs is expected to be the establishment of a City Help Desk for migrants where they can access information on some the issues affecting foreign nationals such as advice on how to access government services, clinics and schools.

This will include an awareness campaign aimed at addressing xenophobia and will be done in collaboration with migrant groups and civil society.

"We should explore unity in action and ensure that both the foreign nationals and the local municipalities work in close collaboration to achieve the jointly-agreed goals," he said.

The developing world has been experiencing a rapid rate of urbanisation and migration. In Africa alone, urban growth rates, according to UN Habitat, have grown by up to 10 percent.

Masondo said migrants brought many opportunities to cities. Skilled migrants who maintain their ties with their countries of origin could stimulate the transfer of technology and capital, he said.

Professor Jonathan Crush of the Southern African Migration Project said Johannesburg was not alone facing a migration problem.

"While Johannesburg has probably less than 10 percent of its population as migrants, Toronto has 25 percent. The problem needs a humane approach," he said.


Aug 23, 2006 =
Immigrant rights activist gains national support
By Heather Cottin

Elvira Arellano, a 31-year-old Latina single mom, has become the heart of the struggle for millions of undocumented workers who seek to keep their families together.

Arellano has lived in the U.S. since 1997. To protect her seven-year-old son, Saul, who has ADHD and health problems, she defied a Department of Homeland Security deportation order. On Aug. 15, Arellano and her son entered the Adalberto United Methodist Church, on Chicago’s West Side.

The pastor of the church, Walter Coleman, said his largely Puerto Rican congregation offered Arellano sanctuary. According to the support committee helping her, the U.S. government is pressuring the church to force Pastor Coleman to expel her.

Arellano wants to work and raise her son in the United States. She purchased a fake Social Security card and got a job cleaning planes. In the hysteria following 9/11, Homeland Security arrested her at O’Hare Airport in 2002.

Millions of Elvira Arellanos

Why did Arellano emigrate? In 1994, the U.S. pushed Mexico into signing the North American Free Trade Agreement. The effect on the Mexican economy has been devastating. Before its passage, many Mexicans lived on small farms, but under NAFTA, these farmers could not compete with U.S. agribusiness. They fled the countryside and went to the cities. The urban population of Mexico went from 63 percent to 75 percent from 1992 to 2002. (UN Human Development Reports)

This is the face of neoliberalism. Over 36 percent of the Mexican population lives on less than $2 a day. Women and young people comprise the lion’s share of the unemployed.

Throughout the world, “free trade” has made millions of Elvira Arellanos. They are Filipin@s, Koreans, Central Americans, Africans and Eastern Europeans.

Yet the media calls Arellano “illegal,” while right-wing talk show hosts denounce her as an “alien.” Racist headlines around the country say the family is “ducking” deportation, “holed up” in a church, likening them to hunted animals.

The case of Elvira Arellano has hit a deep nerve. This administration, which claims to care so much about “family values,” has separated thousands of immigrant parents from their U.S.-born children. The Department of Homeland Security, with no immediate plans to send the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gestapo into the church while the whole world is watching, has Arellano in its sights.

Support grows for Arellano family

Activist groups in Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco and Vermont are organizing to demand justice for Arellano and immediate legalization for all 12 million undocumented immigrants.

Elvira Arellano “is the face of the movement,” said Emma Lozano, executive director of the Chicago immigration-rights group Centro Sin Fronteras, which Arellano helped found. ( Arellano mobilized for a mass protest on July 5, 2005, in Chicago that drew 50,000 people, and organized with the Coalition of African, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (CAAELII), a broad coalition for legalization of immigrants in Illinois.

Solidarity with the Arellano family is growing. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, plans to come to Chicago in solidarity. “She is our Rosa Parks,” said Teresa Gutierrez of New York’s May 1 Coalition.

The National Women’s Caucus of the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights is planning demonstrations in dozens of cities, and has launched an email and telephone campaign to deluge Illinois senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama and the White House with demands for Arellano’s right to permanent residency and a moratorium on all deportations.


Summary of National Immigrant Strategy Convention
~ Chicago, Illinois ~
Please distribute and circulate widely!

Nativo V. Lopez
National President, MAPA
National Director, Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana
August 22, 2006


1. The convention was held at the Holiday Inn Hillside Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on August 11-13th;

2. There were 761 delegates in attendance representing 400 organizations from 40 states;

3. The convention brought together immigrant base organizations and coalitions, unions, and faith-based organizations who were clearly responsible for the mega-marches organized throughout the U.S. from February to May 1st this year;

4. The purpose of the convention was to unite these organizations under a national umbrella network and hammer out a strategy to proceed with the goals of this broad national immigrant’s rights movement;

5. The convention established the network under the name of NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR IMMIGRANT’S RIGHTS / ALIANZA NACIONAL POR LOS DERECHOS DEL INMIGRANTE, and created a Provisional National Council comprised of 100 delegates to lead the work of the NAIR over the next three months until a permanent governance structure is created;

6. The convention resolved to repudiate the two immigration legislative proposals before the U.S. Congress – H.R.4437 and S.2611 as unsatisfactory to the needs of the immigrant communities, and demanded they be defeated this year;

7. The convention further resolved that the premise of its existence is the demand for LEGALIZATION FOR ALL and an immediate moratorium of immigration raids and deportations;

8. The delegates further reaffirmed support for the basic points of unity that brought them together – see for the complete list, and they further adopted the political statement prepared before the convention outlining the basic tenets of the national immigrant’s rights movement;

9. The convention emphasized the importance of uniting with the labor movement, and unanimously resolved to endorse and actively support various organizing campaigns of immigrant workers in various industries – Smithfield Company in Red Springs, North Carolina (the largest hog slaughter plant in the world) being organized by the UFCW – United Food & Commercial Workers Union; the Port Driver’s organizing campaign by the Teamsters Union and the Change to Win Unions (Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other cities); the Wal-Mart organizing campaign by the UFCW and Change to Win; and other campaigns;

10. The first major actions resolved by the convention include national marches with labor on the Labor Day Weekend – Sept 4th – to create the ONE MOVEMENT concept between labor and immigrant’s rights movements;

11. The second major action will take place on September 305h – the National Day of LEGALIZATION FOR ALL and MORATORIUM OF RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS;

12. The convention further resolved to support ALL voter registration and U.S. citizenship campaigns conducted by organizations supportive of immigrants;

13. The convention also emphasized the importance of supporting all immigrants in their efforts to create base organizations to develop their leadership, capacity, resistance to right-wing attacks either in the manifestation of “Minutemen-type” organizations and/or hate talk radio and television, and municipal and state legislation which seek to curb their civil liberties, constitutional, civil, and labor rights;

14. The convention noted with special urgency the need for unity between all the organizations, unions, faith-based entities, coalitions, and other formations who support immigrants to one degree or another, and the necessity to maintain a dialogue with all irrespective of major or minor differences that may exist or occur between the organizations within the movement;

15. The delegates resolved to return to their respective cities and states and begin working to broaden the NATIONAL ALLIANCE by including base organizations and coalitions who were not able to attend the convention, and put into practice the resolutions adopted; this will result in developing state affiliates with the Alliance and eventually establishing a permanent national and state governance structure which is representative (of the immigrant communities themselves), democratic, and transparent.

Nativo Vigil Lopez
National President
Mexican American Political Association
310 N. Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 269-1575
Fax: (323) 260-8215

MAPA National Headquarters
310 N. Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: (323) 269-1575 Fax: (323) 260-8015

National President: Nativo Vigil Lopez

Media Contact:
Cell - 818.720.7181


New outlaws plague Arizona desert refuges = 8/22/2006
By Tom Kenworthy, USA TODAY

CABEZA PRIETA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Ariz. — Roger Di Rosa, standing atop a high ridge overlooking a broad basin and the Growler Mountains beyond, recalls what this protected area was like nearly 30 years ago when he did his first tour here in the Southwest's

Sonoran Desert.

"You could go out and not see another person for a week," says Di Rosa, who now manages the sprawling U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge that covers an area the size of Rhode Island.

PHOTO GALLERY: Border issues changing U.S. parks

There's no longer a shortage of people here or on other federal land that makes up 43% of the 1,900-mile boundary with Mexico. Aggressive crackdowns along the border in recent years in places such as San Diego and El Paso have pushed illegal immigrants and drug smugglers into remote desert areas in southern Arizona.

As a result, employees from park rangers to biologists are dealing more with the effects of illegal immigration, instead of protecting wildlife and helping visitors.

Last year, 205,231 illegal immigrants were apprehended on Arizona border lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, according to Di Rosa.

In addition to Cabeza Prieta, several other federal properties along the border in southern Arizona — Organ Pipe National Monument, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, the Coronado National Memorial and the Coronado National Forest — have been hit with immigration-related issues that cut into the time being spent on park issues.

Each year, an estimated 35 tons of marijuana pass through the Coronado National Memorial, east of Nogales, Ariz., the park service reports.

At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument run by the National Park Service, superintendent Kathy Billings says her staff spends about 75% of their time on border issues. Her park rangers, along with U.S. Border Patrol agents, detained nearly 8,000 smugglers and illegal immigrants last year and seized 8 tons of marijuana.

Because of possible danger to visitors, Organ Pipe has closed 90 miles of roads that tourists once used to view scenery and wildlife. A 30-mile iron fence costing $18 million was finished earlier this month along the border to stem illegal vehicle traffic.

System of 'highways'

At Cabeza Prieta, which preserves habitat for endangered wildlife like the desert pronghorn antelope, illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico have created a vast system of "major highways" across wilderness, Di Rosa says. At any one time, there are several dozen abandoned vehicles on the refuge. Fires are normally a rare occurrence here, but 7,500 acres burned last year as stranded illegal immigrants set blazes to attract help as they struggled to survive in the heat. This year, 250 people overcome by the harsh conditions after crossing the border have been rescued on the refuge.

The refuge's two law enforcement agents, working with the Border Patrol, confront organized gangs that smuggle drugs and illegal immigrants and "are better equipped than we are," Di Rosa says.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees land along 155 miles of the border, faces similar problems. From 2003 to 2005, the agency removed 700 abandoned cars and 250,000 pounds of trash in southern Arizona, BLM district manager Bill Civish told Congress in June.

Cabeza Prieta was founded in 1939. In 1990, Congress designated nearly all of it as wilderness, the highest level of federal protection.

Not long after, illegal immigration shifted to desert areas as the Border Patrol stepped up interdiction efforts in traditional crossing areas in California and Texas.

'Balloon effect'

Larry Parkinson, head of law enforcement for the Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, calls it the "balloon effect" — squeeze enforcement in one place, and the problem pops out somewhere else.

In 2004, the Interior Department told the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, that between 1997 and 2000 the number of illegal immigrants detained on department lands within 100 miles of the border jumped from 512 to 113,380 and has continued to increase.

For federal land managers along the border, the illegal immigration also means severe budget strains. At Organ Pipe, about half the $3 million budget is spent on immigration issues — from arresting smugglers and illegal immigrants to collecting trash to assessing damage to the fragile environment, Billings says.

After the 2002 murder of a park ranger by a smuggler, Organ Pipe doubled its law enforcement staff to 14 rangers. Now there are 12 and should be 21, according to the monument's assessment of what it needs.

The park service has increased spending on homeland security and border protection by about $121 million nationwide since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. While most of the costs have been covered by increased congressional appropriations, at least $21 million has not, according to the park service.

At Cabeza Prieta, the basic work of the refuge — protecting wildlife — has been compromised, Di Rosa says. The traffic is disrupting migration patterns and destroying habitat used by the desert pronghorn antelope, which numbered only about 20 here during a 2001-02 drought but is slowly increasing with the aid of a captive-breeding program.

"We are not fulfilling our mandates for managing wilderness or the refuge," Di Rosa says.


August 21, 2006 =
Here Illegally, Guatemalans Are Prime Targets of Crime

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 21 — It took Esteban Velásquez a year to save enough money to buy a gold chain he had always wanted. But last summer, as Mr. Velásquez, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, walked to a convenience store with a friend, a man punched him in the face and ran off with the $400 piece of jewelry.

Robberies of illegal immigrants have become a serious problem here in recent years, and the victims, mostly from Guatemala, often avoid reporting the crimes, fearing deportation.

“I was afraid,” said Mr. Velásquez, 25, a landscaper who arrived here six years ago.

He reported the crime but later tried to hide from the authorities to avoid appearing in court. “But then I thought, whether I’m documented or not, I still have my rights,” he said.

With such crimes on the rise — they are common enough to have a chilling street name, “Guat-bashing” — the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, Fla., and the Guatemalan Consulate in Miami, along with local law enforcement agencies, religious groups and banks, are working to help illegal immigrants from Guatemala protect themselves.

Predators know that Guatemalans often carry cash in their shoes or underwear because they do not trust banks, police officials said, and that if they are in the United States illegally, they often lack the documentation needed to open accounts. They are frequently attacked on Friday nights, the police said, after they have cashed their paychecks.

“They’re being preyed upon because they’re easy victims,” said Capt. Mary Olsen of the West Palm Beach Police Department. “They don’t fight back. They’re very modest people, and they’re afraid of the police.”

In February, the department assigned Freddy Naranjo, a police officer from Ecuador, as a liaison between the police and the immigrant community. He has become a familiar face in neighborhoods with high rates of crimes against illegal immigrants.

“The hardest part was trying to work with their trust,” Mr. Naranjo said. “They didn’t trust the Police Department. The major thing is to come out and report these crimes, not hold back.”

Another law enforcement official said that it was the responsibility of the federal government, not the local police, to round up illegal immigrants, and that local officials would report them only if they were charged with a crime.

Between January and early August, Captain Olsen recorded 15 arrests involving robberies of Guatemalans in West Palm Beach. Fernando Alvarez, a community relations supervisor for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, estimated that more than 50 robberies of Guatemalans had been reported in unincorporated parts of the county this year.

The figures probably do not reflect the actual number of attacks, law enforcement officials said, since few illegal immigrants report the crimes.

Some victims have lost more than money in the attacks. In February, two men shot and killed Osmar Bernardo, 26, who was walking home from a convenience store in West Palm Beach. In December 2005, Eben Roblero, 21, was gunned down while repairing his car in an alley behind an apartment complex. Both of the victims were Guatemalans.

Even law enforcement officials have been accused of victimizing immigrants. In recent years, a West Palm Beach police officer and a county sheriff’s officer were arrested on charges of stealing money from immigrant farmworkers.

Immigrants from other Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and Mexico, are also frequent targets in Palm Beach and neighboring counties.

Rosa Bardales, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, hesitated last year before reporting a break-in at the two-bedroom duplex she shares with her husband, baby daughter and two other people.

“I thought I could be deported and separated from my daughter,” Ms. Bardales said. “I couldn’t begin to imagine what that would be like. But I left it to God.”

Ms. Bardales, who makes $180 a week working on a construction cleanup crew, was robbed of $300 in the break-in.

According to Census Bureau figures from 2005, Palm Beach County’s population of 1.2 million people includes 18,002 Guatemalans, 37,377 Mexicans, 7,745 Hondurans, 2,386 Nicaraguans and 3,013 Salvadorans. Many are migrant farmworkers.

Benito Gaspar, a supervisor for the Guatemalan-Maya Center, said the actual immigrant population was probably three to four times as large as that because the census figures did not include many of the illegal immigrants.

Mr. Alvarez said the sheriff’s office had organized forums with other organizations in West Palm Beach and Lake Worth where Guatemalans could register for identification cards and passports from the Guatemalan Consulate. The program started in 1998 but has gained momentum recently, he said.

To get an ID card from the consulate, immigrants must present a birth certificate or a proof-of-residency card from Guatemala, said Beatriz Illescas, the country’s consul general in Miami. The cards make it easier for illegal immigrants to get jobs, rent apartments and open bank accounts.

Diane Wagner, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said that in 2004 her company began accepting Guatemalan passports and ID cards issued by the consulate as forms of identification needed to open a savings or checking account.

And like the police in West Palm Beach, the county sheriff’s office is increasing its presence in immigrant neighborhoods, giving lectures, attending church and even hanging out in convenience stores and Laundromats to spread the word that the police can be trusted.

“We want them to have a better place to stay,” Mr. Alvarez said. “We’re not immigration.”

Outside his uncle’s modest rented home in West Palm Beach, Mr. Velásquez said he avoided going outside and remained stunned that someone would grab one of his few valuable possessions.

“We come here to work and we work very hard for little money,” he said. “That’s why I felt so sad when I lost my chain. Who knows how long it will take me to save for another one?”


Sunday, August 20, 2006 =
'It's just not enough to vote'
UFW co-founder celebrates women's rights in Fresno.
By Erik Lacayo / The Fresno Bee

Social activist Dolores Huerta marched in downtown Fresno on Saturday and then added her voice to dozens of speakers encouraging women to flex their political muscles. Huerta also spoke out against a proposition that would require parental notification of minors seeking abortions and called for the legalization of undocumented workers.

She spoke to about 200 people at the Fulton Mall for Women's Equality Day, a rally that celebrated women's right to vote. Huerta, who founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez, told the crowd that women must continue to organize and get involved politically.

"It's just not enough to vote," she said. "We need to have more women in government and the corporate world."

Huerta said she is traveling the state to campaign against Proposition 85 on the Nov. 7 ballot. The proposition would require doctors to inform a parent or guardian before performing abortions on girls younger than 18. Huerta called for the full legalization of undocumented workers, especially those with children.

She said that she was in Chicago on Thursday and met with Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant from Mexico seeking refuge in a church to avoid deportation. Arellano has a 7-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen.

Chelsey Ramirez, a junior at McLane High School in Fresno and a peer health educator with Planned Parenthood, helped plan Saturday's event at the Free Speech area of the Fulton Mall. Chelsey, 16, said she's a supporter of equality for all people, not just women.

Monica Hernandez, 27, of Fresno hugs her daughter Vanessa Beltran, 11, while waiting to march with youngest daughter Francis Beltran, 7, at the Women's Equality Day March in downtown Fresno.

Diana Baldrica / The Fresno Bee

"I've always been involved in activism," she said. "I like politics."

Patsy Montgomery, spokeswoman for Fresno-based Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said she decided to organize the event two months ago when she was trying to get people to similar rallies in Sacramento.

Many of Planned Parenthood's clients are single working mothers, and it's important for them to realize their rights, Montgomery said.

Loretta Kensinger, coordinator of the Women's Studies Program at California State University, Fresno, said women must continue to build upon what was started with the women's suffrage movement, in which women organized and became a factor in the political landscape.

The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified Aug. 18, 1920.

"We weren't invited to the table," Kensinger said. "We brought ourselves to the table." Kensinger said she had hoped more people would participate in the rally, but she saw a lot of energy from those who were there.

Montgomery said the number of young people who participated Saturday gives her hope for the future. She said there will be a Women's Equality Day rally in Fresno again next year. And, Montgomery predicted, "It will be bigger next year."

The reporter can be reached at or (559) 441-6679. Ty Ryan, 22, listens to Dolores Huerta speak about the importance of women voting. Loretta Kensinger, coordinator of the Women's Studies Program at California State University, Fresno, said women must continue to build upon what was started with the women's suffrage movement.

~~ Diana Baldrica / The Fresno Bee


Illegal immigrant turns to church for sanctuary
August 16, 2006
Staff Reporters

Immigration activist Elvira Arellano sought refuge Tuesday in a small storefront church, just blocks from her apartment, hoping that the sanctity of a holy place would shield her from deportation.

Arellano, a 31-year-old illegal immigrant, was supposed to report to immigration authorities Tuesday morning but instead went to her pastor, the Rev. Walter "Slim" Coleman, a longtime social activist and minister at Adalberto United Methodist Church, 2176 W. Division.

"I knew my church wouldn't abandon me in my moment of desperation," Arellano said in Spanish.

Elvira Arellano and her 7-year-old son, Saul, are seeking sanctuary at Adalberto United Methodist Church. (SCOTT STEWART/SUN-TIMES)

Flanked by Coleman, formerly a driving force behind the Heart of Uptown Coalition that fought to empower poor people in the North Side neighborhood, and Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras (Center Without Borders), who staged a five-day hunger strike to bring a new school to the Little Village neighborhood, Arellano told 30 assembled supporters she had no fear.

"I'm strong, I've learned from Rosa Parks -- I'm not going to go to the back of the bus. The law is wrong."

By Tuesday evening, Arellano faced a long night of looking over her shoulder every time the bell jingled as the church's front door opened. She planned to tuck her 7-year-old son, Saul, into the twin bed of the tiny room above the church the two will share until the standoff is resolved.

"We'll stay here as long as necessary, until Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin introduce my private bill and approve my extension," Arellano said. She spent much of her day asking supporters to flood the senators' offices with demands for an intervention.

Both senators' staffs, however, said the only real solution to Arellano's problem is comprehensive immigration reform. "Frankly there are so many other people in a similar situation and we just cannot offer a private release bill to everyone," said Durbin spokeswoman Christina Angarola.

Arellano, feeling depleted from the stress and a cold, lamented that if she had to go back to Mexico she'd take her son with her, but that she was certain it wouldn't come to that.

"This village is raising its voice and making itself heard," said Arellano. "Our people are not the same as they were before -- we put [legislators] in office and the registered voters of this community can take them out."

'They'll have to face God'

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Tim Counts said the government considers Arellano a fugitive who will be arrested in the future regardless of her location.

"We've been working with her attorney and immigration to make this as smooth as possible, but Mrs. Arellano has taken another path," Counts said. "We have the authority to arrest anyone in violation of U.S. law anywhere in the United States."

Meanwhile, Arellano reported a steady stream of supporters bringing food and offers of clothing and supplies for her and her son during their stay.

And she waits. "If they come for me in this place they'll have to face God. We have video cameras and we'll show how the federals violate the house of God."


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