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"We Aren’t Leaving"

From Hoy
06/21/02
By Carolina Sotola

"Here we are and if they throw us out, we aren’t leaving," shouted dozens of people marching in front of the immigration building here in the Big Apple yesterday afternoon.

The reasons for the protest, organized by the Central American Coalition, were key: the protesters called for the extension of temporary protected status (which allows undocumented immigrants from a country experiencing armed conflict or environmental disaster to remain in the U.S. and work) for immigrants from El Salvador and the approval of temporary protected status for Colombians.

They demanded the amendment of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, which extends asylum to certain Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and people from former Soviet bloc countries.

The protesters also asked for the permanent restoration of the immigration law called section 245 (i), which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a green card without leaving the U.S. They also called for legal status for all undocumented immigrants.

"Immigrants have many problems. One of them is being separated from their families when they come to the United States," said Guillermo Chacón, an activist with the Salvadoran-American Network. He explained that section 245 (i), if restored, would allow people in the U.S. who have no immigration status to apply for green cards through a family member or employer without leaving the country. In 1997 Congress did not renew this section.

Organizations representing different Hispanic communities, such as the Guatemalan Committee, Salvadorans United for Better Opportunity, Hondurans Against AIDS and the New York Immigrant Coalition were present to support the same cause.

"We are here so that they listen to us. We are uniting as one voice to call for the legalization of all immigrants," said Carol Méndez, a student at Rutgers University. "Also, we are demanding that undocumented students should not pay twice as much for courses as a regular student to attend university," she said, referring to the Students Adjustment Act.

The march, which lasted two hours, left a clear message. "We want to tell President Bush and the Congress of the United States that needed, fair reforms are the most intelligent step to make with respect to immigrants, especially after Sept. 11. They need to give some sort of hope to the Hispanic community," said Chacón.

Translated from Spanish by Erica Pearson

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