REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Legal, Educado & Enojado

By on May 2, 2017

People marched in solidarity with ‘those in the shadows’ while Mead dodged their message.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – On Monday about 200 people gathered in downtown Cheyenne to march to Governor Matt Mead’s office with a letter asking that he take measures to protect the undocumented workers of Wyoming. Chants of “no ban no wall” and “undocumented and unafraid” grew louder as rain, and eventually hail, fell.

Marchers occupied one lane of traffic, holding signs with messages that read, “We’re not going anywhere,” “No human is illegal,” and “Legal, educado and enojado” (educated and angry). Members of Juntos, an immigrant rights organization, headed the procession, leading chants in English and Spanish and handing roses to observers.

Cristal Serrano, the vice-chair of Juntos, explained that the march was in solidarity with laborers across the country, especially the most vulnerable among them. “We’re fighting for those in the shadows. We want our mayor to make Cheyenne a sanctuary city.”

Members of Serrano’s own family live in the shadows of the state’s capitol. “Half of my family is undocumented,” she said. “They’re scared to come into Cheyenne because they don’t want to drive on the highways.”

Eric Zamora, a lifelong Cheyenne resident, spoke to the high stakes of the march in this political moment: “It’s to save our people. They’re trying to send our people down, and away. People are afraid.”

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to construct a border wall between Mexico and the United States, and to greatly expand the power of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target individuals suspected of crimes. Trump has already made good on some of these promises. According to Politico, ICE arrested 21,362 immigrants from January through mid-March, a 32 percent increase over the same period last year. This number included 5,441 non-criminals, double the number arrested last year.

May 1st has been an international day of solidarity with laborers since 1886, when workers in Chicago held strikes for an 8-hour work day. Charlie Hardy, former Democratic candidate for the Wyoming House, gave a speech after the march. He explained to the crowd that people were killed during those strikes, but that their struggle ensured more equitable labor laws. The issue of immigrant rights, he said, is close to his heart. His parents were immigrants from Austria who didn’t speak English when they arrived. He called it patriotic to advocate for the labor rights of immigrants. “Don’t leave today without promising you’re going to keep fighting,” he told the crowd.

Gonz Serrano, a Juntos organizer, recited two poems during the event. In one, he suggested native-born citizens take the labor of immigrants for granted:

“They want paved roads, pretty parks, and clean pools,
Whole foods, organic produce,
beautiful yards, Kentucky
but no burden of brown hues.
The green but no paid dues.
The dynamite but no fuse.
They refuse the human.”

Cheyenne residents for more than 40 years, Becky Evans and Lynn Achter came to march to demonstrate their solidarity with undocumented workers and their resistance to Trump’s policies. “I don’t like the idea of people being rounded up and put on buses. That’s not what we do here,” Achter said.

Evans agreed, calling it hypocritical to target new arrivals: “Everybody besides first nation people are immigrants in this country. We should embrace migration.”

Representatives from Juntos and the American Civil Liberties Union hand-delivered their letter to Mead asking that he formally agree to protect undocumented workers. They were told he was in meetings all day and would not be available to see them.

In her speech after the march, immigrant rights advocate Melanie Vigil told the crowd not to be deterred: “Justice demands that we resist our own authorities.” PJH

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