Vail protesters march for immigrants’ rights | AspenTimes.com
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Vail protesters march for immigrants’ rights

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
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AVON ” Israel Ruiz Ramos said he only wants the legal right to do what he’s been doing for 16 years ” work in the U.S.

“The government tries to say we are criminals,” he said. “We need their support to continue to work in this country.”

More than 100 people rallied for immigrants’ rights in Avon on Monday, joining tens of thousands who demonstrated across the country.

Ruiz Ramos, 28, who lives in Edwards and is originally from Mexico, helped organize the orderly Avon demonstration, which began across from the Beaver Creek Bear Lot and moved down Highway 6 and up to Avon’s main roundabout.

“A united people will never be defeated,” the people chanted as they stood in the roundabout. They waved American and Mexican flags and held placards that read “We are workers, not criminals” and “Hispanics sustain this country.”

As the demonstrators walked, more people joined the march as word spread via cell phones. Workers joined in jeans and hard hats. Victor Rios of Avon, who has worked in the U.S. for 21 years, stopped his taxi and joined the demonstration.

“We pay taxes like anybody else,” he said. “We want rights. We don’t want to be criminals.”

Avon police officers watched from afar and made sure the protesters weren’t blocking traffic.

“Everything seems to be peaceful,” said Jacquie Halburnt, a spokeswoman for the town of Avon.

In Atlanta, an estimated 50,000 people took to the streets in peaceful protests. Police estimated at least 25,000 demonstrators were in Phoenix. Protests also occurred Monday in Grand Junction, Telluride, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.

The U.S. Senate gave up on reaching an agreement on immigration reform last week before its two-week recess. The compromise would have given illegal workers who are now in the U.S. an opportunity to gain legal residency. The Senate sought to soften some language from a bill passed by the House in December that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally and also sought to institute penalties for people who hire illegal immigrants or give them aid.

Jose Perez, 34, of Avon, who works as a building framer, said he wants to learn to speak better English and learn more about American heritage. He interrupted his work at a home in Singletree to join the demonstration.

“We don’t come here to steal jobs from the American people,” he said. “We don’t care if we have to sweep streets or pick up trash. We just want to work.”

Perez, who has lived in the U.S. for 18 years and in Avon for seven years, has three children, all American citizens. Perez said workers are also planning a boycott of local businesses to show how much spending Latinos bring to the local economy.

“If they take us out of the country, the economy will go down,” he said.

Rayma Rose of Vail, who walked past the demonstration, said she wasn’t surprised to see a protest in Avon, considering that there were protests across the country Monday.

“I think it’s amazing that someone who’s an illegal immigrant can protest in our country” although they have the right to do so, she said.

Robert Urbasic of Avon, who also walked past the protesters, said he would like to see officials work to improve conditions in Mexico.

“It’s not the right way to get a message across,” he said.


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