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Charlotte rally against Arizona immigration law
Undocumented aliens, supporters urge federal overhaul
 
Published Friday, July 30, 2010 1:36 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett, For The Charlotte Post

Thousands of immigration supporters and activists across the nation joined Hispanics on Thursday for a day of solidarity against the controversial Arizona law that went into effect today.

In Charlotte, a coalition of groups – including Action NC, Bonilla Community Services, Immigrant Solidarity Committee and St Peter’s Catholic Church – co-sponsored a rally in Marshall Park.

Organizers say that laws, such as the one in Arizona and local deportation programs, are racist and unfairly criminalize Hispanic people.

They are calling for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to state and local governments enforcing “unconstitutional” laws, which preempt federal jurisdiction and unnecessarily break up families by deporting hardworking immigrants seeking a better life for their families.

Although key provisions of Arizona’s law – such as those that require police officers to determine the immigration status of people they stop – were struck down by a judge on Wednesday, opponents say that is only a partial victory, and the complete victory will not come until the law is completely vetoed.

“I think it’s very unjust. Our constitution is supposed to protect human beings and that (law) is against human rights. It should be beat out and stopped completely,” said Rosario Lopez. “I think that they are listening and that we are doing something towards stopping the law. We are working towards that and are not going to stop.”

Although she was born in Mexico, Lopez considers America home.

“Many people tell us we should go back to our country, but our country is here,” she said. “We don’t have a nine digit number that says that we belong here, but this is all that we know.”

Although she is not a U.S. citizen, Lopez was raised in the states. She attended school here and graduated with honors. She earned a degree in biology from UNC Chapel Hill that she cannot use because of her status.

She said supporters of anti-immigration laws seek to criminalize undocumented immigrants. “That is one of the reasons that I am very open about my status because I want them to see what an undocumented person is like. I pay taxes, I don’t do drugs. I don’t kidnap people as the mainstream media wants people to believe,” she said.

Martha Woodward, a Cuban immigrant, attended the rally to show her support for comprehensive immigration reform.

“You cannot force millions of people to leave here,” she said. “I know that you can’t hand everybody papers… but make it fair.”

She believes there is no reason to deny those who are trying to make a better life for themselves, by escaping poverty and corrupt governments, a chance to work towards citizenship.

“I am an American citizen, I’ve been here since I was five years old,” she said. “My parents were fortunate enough that they were able to come here legally, but not everybody can.”

Woodward believes the current immigration system is flawed and unjust because she said it doesn’t give the same opportunities to everyone. “I have a huge problem with the unfairness of immigration laws,” she said. “It is so much easier for somebody from the Middle East to come here than someone from a Spanish country.”

She believes that immigration laws are based on greed and that people from Spanish countries would be more welcomed if their countries were not as poor and had more desired resources. “They wouldn’t make it so hard for them to come here.”

Maudia Melendez, executive director of Jesus Ministries Inc., is well known locally for her advocacy of immigration rights.

“We believe we need to continue supporting the people in Arizona, and continue the conversation and standing up for Arizona until we see that law is totally done,” she said. “Until immigration reform is passed we are going to continue to see these programs that are anti-immigrants.”

She said in the meantime, she plans to continue working with local government to keep peace in the community.

Melendez is also working with other groups on a request for a national moratorium on deportations until there is immigration reform. “Our children and our women are still suffering. Deportation is affecting the community, not just for today but in the long run… Those that are children today are going to become adults, and they are going to have this in their heart and they are not going to forget until they die,” she said. “It’s separating the families and breaking the hearts of the children most of anybody.”

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