Coming into the Country

Juneau rallies for immigrants

Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hispanic and Filipino immigrants and their supporters in the white and Alaska Native community rallied in front of the state Capitol for a few hours Monday morning.

The rally - coinciding with a national day of rallies, marches, and a "Day Without Immigrants" walkout by workers - drew about 40 people carrying large signs advocating for immigrants' rights.

One of them was Hugo Miramontes, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to Juneau about eight years ago.

"We're trying to get the attention of some people, the right people," Miramontes said. "For many years, we haven't been heard, we haven't been treated fairly."

Juneau's immigrants often works in jobs that many others don't want to take, such as dishwashing and housekeeping, Miramontes said.

"If a man is working, keeping his family together," he shouldn't be treated like a criminal, said Henry Stevens of Juneau, who joined the rally.

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The main problem is that U.S. employers don't have to provide just compensation, he said. If all employers had to provide health care and other benefits, they would "think twice" about hiring someone who did not have legal status, Stevens said.

The organizers of the rally said Monday they wanted to show Juneau residents the faces of people who are immigrants rather than push a political agenda. "There's a lot of Juneau residents who are immigrants," said co-organizer Angelica Lopez-Campos.

Lopez-Campos, a city employee, said she took personal leave from her job to stand at the rally. She also was approached by some Juneau business owners who wanted to give their workers time off to attend the rally. "I thought that was very nice of them to do that. I did not ask anybody to do that," she said.

Lopez-Campos said she sympathized with the struggles of immigrant workers who do not yet have legal status.

"It is very scary for anybody to be living in a country where you are not given, after years of work, your legal status," Lopez-Campos said.

She added, "You are every day not knowing if they are going to kick you out of the country and what is going to happen with your kids. You are working so hard to have a future for you and your family and you don't know when they are going to take it away from you."

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"It's a human rights issue, not a Latin rights issue," said Joshua Adams, a Juneau resident who stood with a sign reading, "E Pluribus Unum," which in Latin means "Out of Many, One."

Immigrants today are suffering much of the same prejudice faced by Irish immigrants in the past, Adams said.

A number of cars passing by the Capitol honked in support of the rally, which lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. State Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, sent out cookies and milk to the demonstrators.

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