Illegals legislation stalled on eve of march
Before a compromise on controversial immigration-reforms could be reached, the U.S. Senate went on vacation this week just as a group in Park City made plans to join in this weekend’s protests in Salt Lake.
Members of a newly formed organization that advocates for Latinos in Summit County plan to march in demonstrations against legislation being debated in Congress.
As lawmakers discuss whether all illegal immigrants should be labeled as felons, groups on both sides of the debate are expected to protest this weekend on State Street.
"This is a peaceful march and also a rally," said Pepe Grimaldo, an outreach coordinator for the Peace House in Park City. "The whole meaning of this march is for us not to be labeled as criminals and also for this country to give us opportunities to stay here legally."
Grimaldo, who belongs to the organization, La Voz Latina de Park City, says, "illegal immigrants being here in this country and being labeled as criminals, I don’t think it’s the best thing to do."
"We cannot turn our heads," she said, adding that La Voz Latina’s members work for nonprofits, businesses and the Park City Police Department.
Estimates place the number of illegal immigrants currently living in the United States at between 10 and 20 million. In touristy Park City, where undocumented workers reportedly fill a significant number of positions, some blame illegal immigrants for causing a lowering of wages.
But Park City resident Yarasen Garcia, 15, has many Latino friends she claims perform some of the area’s toughest, service-related duties.
"I want things to be right between all of us," said Garcia, who plans to March with Grimaldo on Sunday.
As thousands protest across the country, Shelley Weiss, a local Latino advocate, says those who march in opposition to "draconian" legislation must respect American soil.
"It’s huge. It’s absolutely huge," Weiss said.
But images of people chanting and waving Mexican flags angers many Americans, Weiss said.
Demonstrations are scheduled Sunday and Monday on State Street in Salt Lake City.
"I will join the march to be united as Latino," said Guadalupe Tovar, an employee at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and member of La Voz Latina de Park City.
Those interested in demonstrating should contact the organization, La Voz Latina member Guillermo Zelaya said. Members can temporarily be reached at the Peace House at (435) 658-4739 extension 102.
"These are really sensitive issues," said Zelaya, who works in Park City as a business banker at Wells Fargo. "I don’t think they are going to be resolved, but I think they need to be resolved."
Senators, however, recessed Friday for the Easter holiday without reaching an agreement. Some want stricter enforcement at U.S. borders to prevent people from entering illegally, while others say illegal immigrants who work in America should qualify for guest-worker permits or receive some form of amnesty from the government.
"We just don’t have a consensus in the Senate, yet," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Friday. "We’ve tried to reach an agreement, but so far, [Democrats are] digging in their heels because they want an issue rather than get something that could actually pass."
Legislation approved last year by the House of Representatives that classifies those who enter the U.S. illegally as felons has received cool responses from senators.
Further, many Latinos despise Sensenbrenner’s HR 4437.
"A lot of people have been here for a long time — they have families, they have children. Just to say that all these people are criminals, that’s not going to do it," Zelaya said. "Rather than alienating them, you need to start enforcing the borders now."
But potential guest-worker programs are too lenient, Hatch said.
"I still consider this amnesty," the senator added. "Guest workers should be buying a round-trip ticket when they come here to work, not a one-way ticket. This still allows guest workers to adjust their status the day they step foot in our country. There’s nothing temporary about this program."
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