Minutemen march on SLC
Midway resident Jerry Owens mourned the death of his friend Aniceto Armendariz Sunday while waving a yellow flag that displayed the phrase ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ — a rallying cry of the American Revolution.
While Armendariz was driving from Park City to Heber on U.S. 40 last fall, Wasatch County prosecutors claim the former deacon at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Park City was shot to death by two illegal immigrants. Two men accused of killing Armendariz face murder charges.
"They stuck a 12-guage shotgun out the window and killed him," Owens said while describing Armendariz’s death. "It’s just insanity."
As a member of the Utah Minuteman Project, Owens now speaks out against illegal immigration to encourage Congress to secure U.S. borders. The nationwide Minuteman Project opposes illegal immigration.
Last weekend, Owens joined about 150 other people who demonstrated for the group during immigration protests in Salt Lake City.
"Why aren’t you arresting illegal aliens?" he said while confronting a group of Salt Lake City police officers during the demonstration. "I’m sick of it and everybody’s sick of it."
Police estimate that around 25,000 people rallied downtown Sunday before marching to Utah’s Capitol Hill to draw attention to the plight of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
Before a smaller contingent of counter-demonstrators hiked to the Hill, however, they huddled in a corner of the park outside the city/county building to encourage people who entered the United States illegally to return to their countries and obey the law before returning.
"Legal immigrants are fine," said Alex Segura, director of the Utah Minuteman Project. "Make sure you’re going to have health care and you’re not going to be a burden to society."
Meanwhile, perhaps concerned about infuriating a growing number of Latino voters, members of Congress adjourned Friday for two weeks without passing widely debated immigration reforms. A controversial resolution passed last year by the House of Representatives calls for enhanced fencing at the border and classifies all people who come into the United States illegally as felons.
But House Resolution 4437 has received a cool response from U.S. senators who favor forming guest worker programs that could allow some illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years to pay fines and back taxes to continue working in the country.
"I favor more of what the House is trying to achieve. We need a stronger presence on the border," Segura said.
While helping to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border with the nationwide Minuteman Project last year, Segura said he saw fences trampled by immigrants trying to sneak across the border into Arizona.
"Fences make good neighbors and that would be a deterrent to have a decent fence," Segura said.
He says he is against guest worker programs proposed by Congress and blames Utah’s federal and state lawmakers for allowing an immigration crisis in the America to fester.
"(State Rep.) David Ure has helped create this problem, along with (U.S. Senator) Orrin Hatch and (U.S. Rep.) Chris Cannon," Segura said.
While representing Park City in Utah’s House of Representatives, Ure, a Republican from Kamas, has passed legislation that allowed illegal immigrants to receive lower tuition costs reserved for Utah residents and made them eligible for Utah driver licenses.
"Immigrants come in illegally and they’re taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers and paid less. We need to pay people a reasonable wage that allows you to be a productive member and also take some of your money and put it back into the economy," Segura said.
Business owners in Summit County’s service industry add to the problem, Segura said.
"Every time you ignore the law for cheap labor, you’re contributing to the problem," he said, adding, "the business owners, themselves, if they’re accepting falsified documents in order to hire these people, are in violation of federal law. I’ve heard from people who are supervisors in the hotel industry that they look the other way when it comes to documentations."
Demonstrator William Taylor said he was offended Sunday to see illegal immigrants wave Mexican flags while demanding privileges on American soil.
"This flag represents a melting pot," Taylor said while holding an American flag.
"If these guys want to come over here and take all the jobs, they have to go through the proper channels."
The plumber from Sandy says he worries about the affect illegal immigration has on wages in America.
"I’m tired of seeing my money go to Mexico," added protestor Eric White, of Holladay.
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Park City intends to soon seat an internal task force that will study issues within the municipal government itself related to the LGBTQ community.