Saturday Rally Set on Plight of Immigrants
Adriana Gomez Licon/El Paso Times
EL PASO — Hundreds of people in El Paso don’t want another year to go by without repairing what U.S. officials have called a broken immigration system.
In a rather urgent fashion, they will march and rally this weekend to ask the government to relieve the plight of millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear.
The Border Network for Human Rights expects 2,000 people to march starting about 3 p.m. Saturday from the University of Texas at El Paso to Downtown El Paso.
Other large cities in the country will hold similar rallies the same day.
Participating in El Paso’s march will be Zelene Pineda, 21, who immigrated to the United States when she was 8.
Pineda never realized that her immigration status would affect her opportunities to attend college.
“I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I started applying for scholarships and saw that many of them were not available because I was not a resident,” she said. “That’s when it really hit me the hardest.”
Pineda’s family has been on a rough road to legalization.
She arrived in Houston from Mexico City with her mother and two younger sisters.
Her mother married a U.S. citizen, who she said later became abusive.
The family remained in the country because of a federal law that protects female victims of violence. Now Pineda’s mom is a permanent resident, but Pineda and her younger sisters are not.
“We are just kind of waiting to see what happens,” she said. “We might be able to
get it (residency), but we run the risk.”
Pineda did not register at UTEP for the spring semester because she did not have money to pay for school. If it came down to deportation, Pineda said, she would try to remain positive.
“I would do what I have to do just because that is life,” she said. “But I have opportunities here. This is where my family is.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been critical of current immigration laws and has promised that her staff will do what it takes to improve the system.
“For too long, our nation’s immigration challenges have lacked serious solutions,” said Matt Chandler, spokesman for Homeland Security. “We are committed to confronting this problem in practical, effective ways, using the current tools at our disposal while we work with Congress to enact comprehensive reform.”
About 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Texas has about 1.5 million undocumented immigrants.
President Barack Obama has also committed to work toward immigration reform but has not set a time frame.
In July, Obama cracked down on companies hiring undocumented immigrants. The government has beefed up the prosecution of both criminal and noncriminal immigration cases for the word to spread that there is no amnesty.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform wants the Obama administration to toughen immigration laws to protect the labor market.
“We believe that what we need to do is to institute immigration policies that protect American workers, especially given the current economic climate,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the group.
Adriana GÃ³mez LicÃ³n may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org;