Supporters of immigration reform rally outside the offices of Congressman Steve Pearce, Wednesday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)
A peaceful demonstration held by local immigration reform activists at the Roswell office of Congressman Steve Pearce turned political Wednesday when his Democrat opponent from Alamogordo joined the effort.
The event was billed by its organizers as a way to educate Pearce about the reality of immigrants’ lives so he could better make decisions on the issue.
But Congressional candidate Leslie Endean-Singh’s attendance turned the rally’s peaceful appearance into a platform for those opposed to Republican policies to speak out.
Some 35 men, women and children grasped white roses and small American flags, and gathered under dark skies as rain sprinkled sporadically. They held homemade posters and chanted in Spanish, “Here we are! We’re going to stay!” and “Community United!”
The activists marched along busy West Second Street after 4 p.m., stopping for a short time to listen to the politically charged words from Endean-Singh and Lee Sides. Otherwise, they proudly waved their flags and held signs with the handwritten words: “No Human Illegal,” “Let’s go forward United,” “In Solidarity with 11 Million” and “Vote Yes for Citizenship.”
Pearce’s spokesman Eric Layer said the congressman has always welcomed groups of all views and backgrounds to join them in sharing ideas and concerns.
“Productive dialogue is central to Rep. Pearce’s work for New Mexico,” Layer said. “Congressman Pearce has met with dozens of groups and countless individuals from throughout New Mexico and around the country regarding immigration reform.”
Endean-Singh said she attended the event because she felt the immigration system needed to be reformed.
“I basically feel that we’re working against our own interests to deprive these folks of the ability to come out of the shadows and actively participate in the American Dream,” Endean-Singh said.
Pearce’s focus on border security is not something she agrees with, she said.
“It’s not about security,” Endean-Singh said. “It’s about prejudice, and not wanting to deal with the 11 million people we’ve got here already. They want to brush it under the carpet and focus on drones and more border patrol agents at a time when they are cutting education funding and food stamps.
“We need a path to citizenship and a broad path,” she said.
Pearce agrees that the immigration system needs to be reformed.
In a letter to a group in Las Cruces in May, Pearce spelled out in detail, clear ideas for change that included legal reform, just treatment, reducing guest-worker system complexities, and protecting immigrants from harm and exploitation.
“Unfortunately, the immigration system we have in place today is broken,” Pearce wrote. “The United States has been and must again become a shining beacon of hope and prosperity. We must reform our immigration system to ensure immigrants are treated justly and fairly.”
Pearce said he felt a recent Senate-passed immigration reform bill did not adequately address border security and other important issues.
“Unfortunately, we know too well what an unsecured border means for America: millions living in hiding and fear, violent crimes resulting in the deaths of Americans and immigrants, and the seemingly uncontrollable flow of drugs,” Pearce said.
The bill also placed restrictions and caps on a range of important work visas and called for penalties and taxes instead of solving the problem, Pearce said.
Angelica Rubio, committee organizer for the Alliance for Peace and Justice, said she planned to submit a letter to Pearce’s office Tuesday to urge him to support comprehensive immigration reform that is just and humane for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“We’re concerned about the future of immigration reform,” Rubio said.
Rubio said she hoped to continue to get more people involved and do more to mobilize the community in support of issues that are important to people living here.
Sergio Carasco, of Roswell, walked in the group during the protest. He said he wanted to see immigration reform for “the people.”
“They have to work here and pay taxes,” Carasco said. “They need a better life with papers.”
A local group, League of United Latin American Citizens, came out to support the effort.
Virginia Garcia, LULAC director, said the effort is something the group and its 42 members can support.
“It is the plight of the Mexican citizens,” Garcia said. “LULAC members took the interest to heart. They are good for the economy. They spend money locally. I am a strong supporter of immigration reform. I like to believe people do care. The need is too big.”
Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Catholic parishes were expected to demonstrate later Tuesday evening in Hobbs.
“We look forward to a fruitful conversation with Somos Un Pueblo Unido and any others interested in a brighter future for our country and for those waiting to become Americans,” Layer said.