O’Leary: I can understand the fear
I read with interest the article in the April 14 online edition of The Aspen Times, “Latino residents come to Roaring Fork school board meeting to protest Border Patrol at career expo.” As the husband of a Latina who was born in the United States and went to school in El Paso, Texas, I have some insight that others may not have into the reasons why having the Border Patrol at the career expo caused many students to be uneasy, or even worse, to skip the expo.
During all of her high school years, my wife was often stopped by Border Patrol agents as she walked to school, who to her at the time were big men in uniforms with guns on their hips. The purpose of those stops, to ask for her papers. First of all, Americans live in a wonderful society and nobody has to show papers to prove citizenship, but young students may not understand that and certainly would not want to challenge these big men with guns.
Those stops were illegal and constituted harassment. I am sure those agents found their actions funny, big men with guns scaring schoolchildren. These stops still continue though are rarely reported due to mistrust of the Border Patrol by our Latino community, whether individuals are citizens, documented immigrants or undocumented immigrants.
So it is quite clear why the presence of those agents at the expo caused such a negative reaction in the Latino community.
The Latino community is a large and vital section of our Roaring Fork Valley community, contributing not only their hard work, but also their wonderful culture, food and friendship. So in the future, I would ask that the organizers of the expo and other events include members of our Latino community as part of the organizing team, if they do not already, to get their valuable input that will make the event an even greater, more inclusive success.