Parkite plans to march this weekend in immigration protest
Yarasen Garcia remembers a story she wrote while in seventh grade about crossing the border from her native Mexico into the United States about three years ago.
"It’s very dangerous for parents when they come here the first time. Most of them are walking, there is no water," Garcia said.
Deaths of immigrants attempting to cross the border have sent shockwaves through Latino communities, she added.
"We don’t even know those people, but when we hear they died in the news, that’s like the saddest thing," Garcia said. "They don’t do it because they want to do it, they want to help their families."
The 15-year-old Park City middle-schooler fears people she knows might be sent back to Mexico if Congress approves Legislation that could turn millions of people into felons overnight.
"Some people think that we are criminals and that’s not true," Garcia said. "And we’re not stealing jobs from others, we’re taking the jobs that nobody wants."
This weekend she plans to join the protesters who have already marched throughout the country in opposition to House Resolution 4437.
"We have to say what we think," Garcia said. "If we don’t speak, these people won’t know what we want."
Legislation being debated in the U.S. Senate makes it a felony to enter the United States illegally and provides stiff penalties for those who aid illegal immigrants and business owners who hire them, said Pepe Grimaldo, an outreach coordinator with the Peace House in Park City.
"We cannot turn our heads, it’s a problem," Grimaldo said. "We do have rights as immigrants but we also have responsibilities and they go hand in hand."
Grimaldo met Monday with other members of the newly formed advocacy group, La Voz Latina de Park City, to discuss who from Summit County might attend immigration marches scheduled Sunday and Monday in Salt Lake City.
"I don’t think it’s a protest," said Guadalupe Tovar, who works at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. "Basically, it’s a march to be in peace with the country."
"Draconian" measures in HR 4377, sponsored by Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, last week sparked outrage from immigrants, said Shelley Weiss, an advocate for Latinos living in Park City.
"[HR 4437] has got some really horrible things in it anybody that did Good Samaritan work for an undocumented person could be criminally liable," Weiss said. "There is more anger than I think anyone ever anticipated. We’ve got this whole underclass that we’ve created."
Instead of enacting harsher criminal penalties, Weiss said Congress should pursue programs that allow illegal immigrants who are already in the U.S., and pay fines for entering the country illegally, to get on a "pathway to citizenship."
"How many people in the Park City area now are Hispanic kids who are American citizens?" Weiss said. "A guest worker program would be a start. But it gets painted as amnesty."
According to Congressman Rob Bishop, a Republican who represents Summit County in the U.S. House of Representatives, "there should be second chances for citizenship, but just no shortcuts."
Bishop last December voted for HR 4437. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, however, is against portions of the resolution.
"I don’t like certain aspects of [HR 4377], I think they’re too harsh," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Hatch says he staunchly opposes "blanket amnesty" for illegal immigrants, but may support a permit program for immigrants to work in America.
"If we give amnesty, or we do some of these approaches that really amount to amnesty, we’re just opening the door for a lot more illegality," the senator said.
The Senate, meanwhile, plans to debate other border control legislation and proposed guest worker programs that could become polarizing as well, Hatch said.
"We in the Senate have got to come up with something that is acceptable to the American people some have suggested a fence or a wall (on the border)," Hatch said. "That’s a drastic measure but I’m not actually opposed to it if it can be done so it works."
Illegal immigrants could perhaps be issued three-year work permits until they can "get in line for citizenship behind the ones who are currently in line," Hatch said.
"I think that’s a decent approach," he said. "We’re a nation of immigrants, but we’re also a nation of laws and illegal immigration undermines the rule of law and creates contempt for law in society."
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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.