The sound of over 30 voices chanting in English and Spanish mingled with the bells of Central Congregational Church on Saturday morning. On the corner of Cherry and East Main Streets, the crowd paused to say, “No one is illegal.”
The march was organized by Estudiantes sin Fronteras (Students without Borders) in an effort to demonstrate solidarity against the new Arizona immigration bill SB 1070, which states, “A law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probably cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” The march also acted to supplement last week’s Alliance for Peaceful Action Symposium.
Junior and event organizer Rosie Worthen anticipated a small gathering, but looked forward to the opportunity to bond with the Galesburg community.
In addition to advertising the campus, Estudiantes put up posters in Galesburg.
“Since Galesburg is a pretty big immigrant community, I think it’s important that we get out there and join with them,” Worthen said.
Jennie Vasquez, 76, has lived in Galesburg since she was born to Mexican immigrant parents who were employed by the railroad.
“Having grown up in a place that was not very friendly and having had to go through a lot of discrimination and bigotry and stuff, I want to do whatever I can to stop it,” she said.
Vasquez also noted the significance of the Knox community to that of Galesburg.
“I always have felt that Knox had a lot of offer; the students had a lot to offer the community,” she said.
Abraham Diekhans-Mears, junior and Estudiantes member, agreed.
“Protest is the best way to get out there and be active in the community because it shows that you care about things that are impacting the community, not just yourself,” he said. “It expands the bubble of Knox into the community’s bubble.”
Joan Smith, 52, is employed at Carl Sandburg College. She heard about the march from a Seymour Library staff member and brought her children with her.
“There’s a large Mexican community here in Galesburg and we want to support them,” Smith said.
Members of Galesburg’s Mexican community joined the march, including one Galesburg resident and her three children. Though her children were born in the United States and she is married to a U.S. citizen, she is still working to obtain full citizenship.
“Most of our friends don’t have papers and that’s why we come here,” she said of the march. “We’re worried about it. It starts in Arizona and then it’s going to be in Texas and more states and it’s not good.”
Knox Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman is also concerned that the law will spread.
“It may be only occurring in Arizona, but Arizona is just a day’s drive from here, so when is it going to come here?” Schwartzman said. “It’s just despicable that certain viewpoints are allowed to dominate the headlines without being critiqued. So this is beautiful for people from all races and backgrounds to come together and say ‘no one is illegal.’”
The march began at 11 a.m. at West Berrien St. and dispersed in front of Galesburg City Hall at 12:30 p.m. As it progressed, the crowd gained numbers and garnered responses ranging from car horns to heckles.
For Diekhans-Mears, that is enough.
“In terms of impact on law, I’m not sure that this is going to do a lot, but the goal is to oppose what you can where you can, and I guess that’s what this is,” he said.
Part of Arizona law SB 1070 reads:
“A law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”
“If an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States is convicted of a violation of state or local law, on discharge from imprisonment or assessment of any fine that is imposed, the alien shall be transferred immediately to the custody of the United States Immigration and Customs enforcement or the United States Customs and Border Protection.”
“Except as provided in federal law, officials or agencies of this state and counties, cities, towns and other political subdivisions of this state may not be prohibited or in any way restricted from sending, receiving or maintaining information relating to the immigration status of any individual or exchanging that information with any other federal, state or local government entity for the following official purposes:
1. Determining eligibility for any public benefit, service or license provided by any federal, state, local or other political subdivision of this state.
2. Verifying any claim of residence or domicile if determination of residence or domicile is required under the laws of this state or a judicial order issue pursuant to a civil or criminal proceeding in this state.
3. Confirming the identity of any person who is detained.
4. If the person is an alien, determining whether the person is in compliance with the federal registration laws prescribed by Title II, Chapter 7 of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act.
To read the rest of this law, visit http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf
“[My grandmother] believed in fighting for the Mexicans. She was proud of being Mexican. I’m here for her.”
“I’m against the law. It’s not fair.”
-Jennie Vasquez, 76
“This is a representation of solidarity that we have with people who are being oppressed somewhere else.”
-Abraham Diekhans-Mears, junior
“Galesburg isn’t a homogenous town. No town should be closed-minded”
– Caroline Castro, junior
“I feel that it’s kind of stepping on our toes. You were illegal when you came here, too.”
-Jake Smith, Galesburg High School student, 15
“Throughout my early life … it was a constant worry [that my parents would be taken away.]”
-Edel Vaca, junior
“We are not gonna let members of our community be targeted, be intimidated, be persecuted, be potentially even harmed in some significant way and we’re saying enough’s enough.”
-Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman
“It’s important for people to be here because we want to help them keep their rights and we don’t want other people to make them go back to Mexico just because they don’t have papers.”
-Alexia Rodriguez, 10
“The people they’re going to go after are going to be the ones who look Mexican. You can’t look at someone and judge them. There are so many people who look one way and aren’t. It’s going to be abused.”
-Joe Smith, Galesburg High School