The United States is a country built on immigrant labor, but today the issue of immigration has become a complicated and heated one.
A new Arizona law now allows police officers to ask for proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally. That law and other immigration issues were front and center recently, when nearly one hundred people rallied in Naperville.
“I think it is pretty clear that the immigration system as it is currently set up is broken,” participant, Tom Cordaro said. “It doesn’t agree with the secure boarders, it doesn’t provide us with the workers that we need and it certainly leaves so many of the families living in this country living in fear.”
The event was organized by the faith based Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. It was one of several throughout the Chicago area, and the nation, to celebrate diversity and call for change.
“It’s not just a pro immigration rally but it’s a celebration. And many of us can say that we are immigrants no matter how far back ago we came,” said Sheena Kauzlarich, organizer for the Illinois Coalition Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
“So it’s a celebration of that and an appreciation of our heritage.”
But it wasn’t all just a celebration. Participants point out the struggles some immigrants face today reflect issues from past generations.
“My own grandfather when he came as an Italian in the early part of the 1900’s was considered a ‘wap’, which was a derogatory term for Italians and it meant without papers,” Tom Carado said. “Because of my own family history of immigration I can definitely identify with the struggles of so many now.”
Those struggles include racial profiling.
“Immigrants from Europe are still white. But now we are seeing more black and brown immigrants and people don’t like that,” Pakistani-American Ahmed Qadeer said.
And one lone protester carried a sign that said, My father came here legally, why can’t you? Get in line. Jim Barna said he is not against immigration, he just wants people to come to the U.S. legally.
“The people from outside, from Mexico and Cuba, they know what this country has got. And we need them. But do it legally, that is all I ask,” he said.
At the end of the day, rally organizers and participants hope to put a local face with this divisive national issue.
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