Glenwood immigration reform rally draws large crowd
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A crowd of more than 200, both Latino and Anglo, stood together on a cold December evening in Sayre Park Friday night for a common cause – furthering immigration reform efforts.
The rally and candlelight vigil, sponsored by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), was one of 10 held around the state at the same time.
Glenwood was among five mountain resort towns to hold rallies – including Telluride, Avon, Dillon and Gunnison – as a way to show the importance of immigrant labor to the ski industry, according to CIRC.
“We’re here tonight to organize as many people as we can for immigration reform,” said Jorge Flores of Rifle, who is part of the group Congregations and Schools Empowered (CASE), which helped organize the local rally.
“We are tired of hiding within the shadows; its time for us to be united, and to be together as families,” he said.
The rallies were held in conjunction with the International Day of the Migrant. They also followed the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in Congress this week by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), which would grant amnesty to working immigrants and create a path toward legalization.
“It’s time for the people who live in this valley to be represented and accounted for, so we can come out of the shadows of illegality,” said Ralph Vazquez of Basalt, as Latin music blared from the loud speakers and the crowd chanted “si se puede” (yes we can), borrowing President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign theme.
A small group of anti-immigration protesters gathered on the park’s perimeter, but did not confront those attending the vigil.
“Not everyone feels like this is all one big fuzzy world,” said Bruno Kirchenwitz of Silt. “These people are bankrupting our judicial and education systems, and sending $30 million a year over the border. That helps us how?”
“I’m tired of seeing illegal immigrants taking our jobs,” added Erich Kirchenwitz. “Those jobs should be going to people who deserve them.”
Vazquez said he didn’t feel threatened by the counter-protesters and said they have a right to their opinion.
“But they don’t understand the problem at hand,” he said. “Many of them had parents or grandparents who came from another place to search for something better. Sometimes they forget that.”
Adriana Torres, also of Basalt, said immigrants are “stuck in a vicious circle” because of obstacles and long waits to obtain a green card to be able to work here legally.
“We need to tell President Obama, ‘yes we can,'” she said. “It’s important to call members of Congress and show support for immigration reform.”
Isela Flores, Jorge’s daughter and a recent graduate of Coal Ridge High School, said immigration reform is especially important to young immigrants who grew up in the United States and Colorado.
“I was brought here by my parents because they wanted me to have the ability to follow my dreams,” she said. “Many of my friends go through school, then realize they can’t get a job legally. They often get depressed and stop trying.
“Being a teenager is hard enough without being told you have no chance,” she said. “It is crushing … and it creates a permanent under class.”
Even though some of her peers were not born in the United States, Flores said they grew up here for the most part, they speak English, they participate in sports and are part of the local communities.
“There is no other country you can send us back to,” she said. “Colorado is our home.”
Glenwood Springs attorney Don Kaufman, who assists immigrants on legal matters, said immigrant labor is critical to the local resort-based economy.
“I remember a time when you weren’t here,” he told the crowd. “You’ve provided an incredible amount of help for this economy.
“We, us white people, are richer because you are here; and you are richer too, because we are brothers,” Kaufman said.
Bill Crymble of Glenwood Springs showed up to support reform efforts, and said he was impressed with the turnout.
“These persons have rights that they are being denied in our society,” he said. “I’m really glad to see this for the Hispanic community.”
Brendan Greene, a community organizer with the CIRC, commented on the rallies in a press release.
“This is the first time Colorado’s ski towns – immigrants and allies alike – are getting in on the discussion,” he said. “These workers are the backbone of the ski industry, and they’re speaking out, and are excited to support the comprehensive reform bill that was introduced.”
Vigils were also held throughout the rest of the state in Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Montrose.
The Gutierrez bill, called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, has around 70 co-sponsors in Congress. However, most Republicans and leaders of anti-immigrant organizations are opposed to any plan to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.
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