Rally supports immigrants

Many see need for more secure borders

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

After President Bush finished a Monday immigration address in Washington, D.C., participants in a Juneau rally prayed for laws that don't punish people for seeking the American dream.

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"Even our Native peoples were part of a great migration thousands of years ago," said Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel, one of the speakers at the Marine Park event.

"We as a nation seek not only security, but justice," Mayor Bruce Botelho, master of ceremonies for the event, told about 50 people in the late afternoon sunshine at the waterfront park. A couple of people in the group were holding U.S. flags when Clairen Stone sang the national anthem.

Some of those who had heard Bush's speech an hour earlier had worries about the direction he wants to pursue.

Although she wasn't scheduled to speak, Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, told the crowd that Bush said he will send National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to address enforcement concerns. And while he appears to support what would amount to an amnesty program for some current undocumented immigrants, it would not allow a lot of people to stay legally, she said.

"I encourage you to call your congressional delegation," she told the crowd. "My experience is they have been very supportive of our individual clients."

In the crowd after the rally, state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, questioned Bush's notion that he is seeking a rational middle ground.

"Because he's not putting troops on the Canadian border?" Berkowitz said.

Warfel told the rally that national security is important. "At the same time, securing the national borders of the United States should always respect the dignity of every human being in our land."

He noted that two popes said people have the right to immigrate and recalled the story of a grade-school child being shown pictures of the Earth by an astronaut in her classroom. He said the child kept looking away from the astronaut's pictures and toward another part of the room. When asked about her distraction, the girl said his pictures were different from the globe in the classroom because they didn't have lines.

"We put the lines on the globe," Warfel said.

Gloria Bodron, who spoke about being an immigrant and what immigrants go through to make a better life in America, later said that while she feels bad for those struggling in the country, she sees border security as another issue.

"I think they need to do something to protect the border of the United States," she said.

Bodron spoke to the rally in Spanish, without English translation. She spoke of the struggles of an immigrant coming into the country, leaving families behind and risking death to make a better life.

The thought came out in Spanish, although she has been in the United States since 1962, she said.

"Many of the people don't understand English," she added.

Botelho said he thinks the middle ground Bush was seeking is to appease people of different views among Republicans.

"The middle ground mostly reflects a split within the party," he said.

"Unfortunately, the (National Guard) troops will probably be seen as militarization of the border," Botelho said. "I don't know if there's a solution that will satisfy all factions."

After Bush told America it would not be wise or practical to round up millions of people and send them across the border, the Juneau rally centered on immigrants' struggles and what they bring to the country.

Before the Rev. Imelda Ramos led the group in the Lord's Prayer and delivered the benediction, she said it has nothing to do with borders. "God is the God of many races, the God of many cultures."

Judith Maier, who attended the rally, said she sees the need for one thing above all. "I think we need justice."

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