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Local activist group demonstrates in support of immigration reform

Immigration Reform supporters demonstrate in the rain at Highways 20 and 101.

Immigration Reform supporters demonstrate in the rain at Highways 20 and 101.

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A group of very determined demonstrators showed up and held their placards in a pouring rain this past weekend, demanding that President Obama stop what they call a cruel separation of parents from their children – undocumented parents forced to return to their native country in Latin America, leaving some of their children behind who are American citizens because they’ve been born in the U.S.

The protesters, from Centro de Ayuda in Newport, say that their demonstration, as well as others across the country, were calling attention to the systematic break-up of families, some two million so far, due to a lack of progress on Immigration Reform, currently stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Centro de Ayuda spokesman Jorge Hernandez said more Latin American families have been broken up by deportation under President Barack Obama than under former President George Bush. He said it’s ripping the hearts out of parents and their children. He says many of those children are overloading the states’ foster care program and general child protective service agencies. He says many of the children are being adopted to provide relief to those systems.

Hernandez says the typical scenario is that either parent (or both) is picked up by immigration police and immediately whisked away to a deportation center in Tacoma, Washington, where they wait to be taken back to their country of origin. While detained they are not allowed phone calls or any contact with the outside world. Their children’s future falls into the hands of foster care or adoption services. Hernandez says the emotional pain for these “American citizen” children is horrendous.

The demonstrators were asking President Obama to stop the deportation of illegal aliens, especially those with children born in this country. They say the U.S. House of Representatives must pass a workable form of immigration reform. The House has received the Senate version of the bill but Republican House Speaker John Boehner said “It’s dead on arrival.” The GOP wants to develop their own bill which makes it much harder for latino parents to become citizens – one bill requiring a ten to 15 year wait for citizenship no matter what. The Senate approved version allows citizenship much sooner as long as parents have clean records, obey all laws and pay their taxes.

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To put a lot of this in perspective, the big rush of latino illegal immigration began back in the late 90’s when the American-inspired North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect. It was a treaty that promised prosperity on both sides of the U.S.- Mexican border. But it turned out to be anything but prosperous – some say even for the U.S. The only sector of society that seemed to benefit were the U.S.’s larger corporations – in this case – agricultural-based companies.

In a very few years, Mexico was being inundated with mountains of cheap pork, cheap beans, cheap corn…all staples of Mexico’s farming families. When cheaper foodstuffs from the U.S. started flowing across the border, it threw millions of Mexican families off their farmlands because they couldn’t sell their products and survive. In desperation, many of those millions put their lives on the line by entering the U.S. because they knew their lives in Mexico were at a dead end.

A relatively porous border allowed, some say, 11 million Mexican migrants into the U.S., and with the help of latino families already here, were shown “the ropes” on how to survive – basically on low wage manual labor jobs. And the rest is history.

Hernandez says most latinos would prefer to live in their native countries, but NAFTA and other very exploitive trade and tariff agreements have so severely disrupted their economies there’s very little left.

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