Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 15, 2006


Host: Jose Cardenas

Immigration Special Edition


  • Donít miss this compilation of stories featured on HORIZON in April and May that focus on the Immigration rallies and marches.
Guests:
  • Emelia Banuelos - Immigration Attorney


View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, we visit again the immigration rallies of April and May that impacted our state and the nation. Thousands took to the streets of Phoenix to make their voices heard as congress and the Arizona state legislature considered reforming immigration laws.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on this special edition of Horizon. I'm Jose Cardenas. On April 10th more than 100,000 marchers gathered on to the Phoenix streets to rally against proposed reform of immigration laws. This followed a previous protest March 24, that took most of the city by surprise. On April 10,000s of people walked from the fairgrounds to the state capitol. What follows are two reports. Nadine Arroyo at the beginning of the march, and Merry Lucero at the capitol.

Nadine Arroyo:
They say they could do it and they have. More than 100,000 people, mostly immigrants, marched the streets of Phoenix all in the name of immigration reform. Marchers came from all over the state and from all cultural groups in hopes of making local and federal officials understand the need to allow immigrants to become a legal part of the U.S.

Pastor Adele Resmer:
I believe the Latinos who have contributed to this society, to the economic and social nature of Arizona should have as much ease as becoming citizens as I did as an immigrant from Canada.

Nadine Arroyo:
Phoenix was one of 130 cities across the country that hosted these rallies. In what was called a National Day of Action. After fallout from the March rally in Phoenix where many Mexican flags were carried, marchers this time carried the American flag as a sign of commitment and desire to become legal Americans. [Cheers] The event began at 10:00 in the morning with a rally at the state fairgrounds. Supporters including community activists made their way to the main stage encouraging marchers to unite with one peaceful voice for a common cause. And for the first time since the marches began, politicians were visible and vocal.

Rep. Steve Gallardo:
We're asking for a comprehensive immigration reform. We're asking for a legal pass to citizenship. That's what these people are. They want to live the American dream. We should not shut these people out from living that dream. It's something we all want. We should be doing what we can to help relationships between Mexico and Arizona. We should be working together in trying to solve our immigration problems. That's what we're asking for today. We want comprehensive immigration reform.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
These are all human beings. We're all human beings. And now people have lived here for many years. They have children here. So the American people do not have the will power to deport and round up all 11 million people.

Nadine Arroyo:
As the rally continued, masses of people flooded the grounds and the surrounding streets. And in anticipation of a crowd overload, the march began 35 minutes early. In all of the streets toward the state capitol were packed and the crowds motivated, the event seemed to have moved along peacefully.

Robert Reveles:
What we want to communicate by this glorious march that we've embarked on, where we've walked miles to the capitol to signal to the legislators, we want immigration reform at the federal level, and we want the state legislature to reflect on the real problems, what they're putting together is not going to solve the problem of immigration. Building walls, criminalizing humanitarian aid, telling our children to get educated and not providing enough funds for it, telling our students, graduate from high school and seek higher education, then being told, sorry but you're going to have to stand in line and be considered something other than a state resident. We're telling the state legislators, enough. Enough of your attempt at building artificial barriers between a country that has been our historic neighbor. And now you are pushing them away at a time when we so desperately need, as a country, to be nurturing friendships with other countries.

Nadine Arroyo:
Clearly this event has brought out thousands on people on an issue that has this nation divided. Although many of these people are non-English speakers, organizers say don't underestimate them. This event wasn't just about taking it to the streets it. It was about an educational process, which teaches many of them their fundamental right in America, their right to have their voice heard, the right to vote. And to assist with that, a voter registration drive was conducted as people made their way into the march. By the start of the event, volunteers claimed to have registered, with the assistance of the Maricopa recorder's office, several hundred people. Oscar Basoco, a citizen for more than ten years, said he never had an interest to have a vote until now.

Oscar Basoco:
I did it to have more votes, so that Latinos have more votes.

Nadine Arroyo:
Others who are not citizens, such as Rosaura Arellano, say even though they cannot vote, their presence at this event does count for something.

Rosaura Arellano:
We are here united like you see. We're here to show one voice and dedication.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
And I certainly hope it leads to the passage of the McCain-Kennedy bill or the compromise that was arrived at to the senate. But if it doesn't, it isn't going to dampen our spirits. We're going to keep registering voters and we're going to be there in November and we're going to make sure our friends are remembered and rewarded and our enemies are expelled.

Nadine Arroyo:
Organizers say the gathering is to show a united front on one particular issue. And as anti-illegal immigrants sentiments continue to linger so will their efforts to defeat it. And this unprecedented event is proof of that.

Merry Lucero:
The march of comprehensive immigration reform was by far Phoenix's largest political demonstration in history. Across the nation similar scenes took place. Many say the unified uprising is a profound indicator of the political and economic might that time Latino community can carry.

Kyrsten Sinema:
You know, today is a brand-new day. Today is a historic day. This is a new social movement, a movement for social justice. A movement for reform. We have strength, we have power, we have unity, we have solidarity, we have hearts, and what do we want? We want -- we want reform, we want justice, and we want equality. So let's start today. [Speaking Spanish]

Merry Lucero:
Others say the magnitude of the march simply points to the need for a resolution to the immigration problem.

Ken Bennett:
I think it's an exciting day. Not very many people get to this see this many people in one place at one time for almost any reason, so I think it helps to point out both sides of the debate.

Merry Lucero:
Comprehensive immigration reform was clearly the reason for the march.

Ed Pastor:
And so we ask the U.S. congress to pass an immigration bill that is just and humane and make America what it has been all along -- a country of immigrants who believes in a better life. So America, believe in us and give us the justice and respect that we deserve!

Merry Lucero:
But the relationship between this March and historic civil rights rallies is hard to ignore.

Joe Ceohard:
The people in the 1960's said that blacks would take their jobs. What we've done is broaden America just like we'll broaden and make it inclusive today.

Merry Lucero:
Among the marchers, former followers of Cesar Chavez who demonstrated against migrant workers' low wages and miserable living conditions.

Lucy Ramirez:
This is why we went on the Cesar Chavez movement, but all done in peace. Now we're here for another totally different issue, also under a peaceable thing, but we wouldn't -- we wouldn't like to -- to see any -- any criminal laws passed.

Pete Rios:
I have the opportunity to march in the early 1960's, 1970's, especially here in Arizona in 1971, 1972 after a piece of legislation that the Cesar signed that the united farm workers of America were very much against. Those particular marches had to do with bringing knowledge and awakening the Latino community. I think it was very successful in doing that. Not only here in the state of Arizona, but nationwide. These particular marches are marches that are coming from grass roots. These are the people, the Latino "gente" themselves that are basically saying, what we want is fairness and justice and we want a comprehensive immigration policy that deals with us fairly.

Margie Solano:
You can relate it. Yes, you can. Because at that time it was for the immigrant workers, for the immigrant work tears make more money, the ones who worked in the field. I did. I came from that. My dad walked with Cesar Chavez. My brother was a bodyguard of Cesar Chavez. So you can relate it. Now we have different issues. In the Hispanic community, all they did was sleep, they fell asleep after that was done, but now it's, hey, it's a wake-up.

Merry Lucero:
Social scientists of the 1950's indeed called the growing population of Mexican immigrants the sleeping giant, even then recognizing the community's potential power, rallying the current Hispanic population's mite would be massive.

Steve Gallardo:
For the past 5 years, myself and other members have been at the capital fighting against anti-immigrant legislation put out by many members that work in the buildings behind us. But we need your help to change the makeup of this body and this country, and the way to do that, the way to do that is to exercise the most fundamental right everyone has, and that's the right to vote!

Merry Lucero:
Clearly more than the estimated 100,000 people gathered here to demonstrate their support of humane immigration reform, but at the end of the march the question still remains -- has the sleeping giant awakened?

Pete Rios:
These marches that are taking place across the nation, they better listen, because this is a sleeping giant that is awakening and tallying the politicos in Washington, D.C. no, we are not criminals. We didn't come across that border to commit crimes. We came across that border to do the jobs that some Americans wouldn't do.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
We got a long way to go. The sleeping giant will awake, when we give rights to all of our people to vote. At this point, you know, it's just one very large adolescent, but it's a spunky adolescent.

Jose:
Many wonder why undocumented immigration has become so common when legal immigration is an option. I recently discussed the issue with an immigration attorney. But first Larry Lemmons takes a look at the legal immigration process.

Diane Brennan:
The white house is not disputing the disclosure that president bush gave the go ahead to a leak of prewar Iraq intelligence.

Larry Lemmons:
Diane Brennan anchors the news -- she's also categorized as a permanent resident, a Canadian at birth she's got a green card now and wants to become an American citizen.

Diane Brennan:
My green card is good for 12 years. But i would like to become a citizen here. I love the country. I'd like to vote and do a few other things. I want to apply in the amazing race and you actually have to be a citizen to do that. So I'm there.

Larry Lemmons:
All kidding aside the subject of citizenship has been no joke to brennan.

Diane Brennan:
The experience was definitely a nightmare from what i was told what would happen in the process was completely different than what i actually had to do. At the time of this, I've been in the states for nine years. For example, there was a lot of miscommunication. I'd speak with one person at immigration they'd say file this form. I'd speak with another one and they would say, no, that was wrong. I don't know who told you that. Fill out this form. My documents were lost. I.N.S. had lost them so I had to reapply and pay the fine again. My green card they actually sent to the wrong address and I had to wait a year until a certain date to be able to contact them and say, what happened to my green card? So I had to wait a year. The whole time it was lost. I wasn't allowed to call earlier to find out. I had to wait a whole year. Then I had to reapply again and pay the other forms even though I had sent them, the address change. So it was very frustrating.

Larry Lemmons:
The most common misconception we may have about legal immigration is that it's a relatively easy and quick process. We think about the images of the immigrants on Ellis Island, the immigration process was much easier back then. Not so much today.

Jeanne Kent:
Okay. Well, let's try and do it the easy way. First thing someone has to do is immigrate to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. And generally there's two ways to do that. Either through a sampling-based petition or employment based petition. Obviously a family-based petition means somebody already here in the United States as a legal resident themselves, or u.s. citizen can file a petition for that person to come to the united states. With the employer petition a similar process in that time employer files a petition looking for someone that has a special work skill that's needed and maybe there aren't enough Americans that have that skill and they'll immigrate the person. Once the person gets here to the United States, generally they have to be a permanent resident and be here for 5 years before they can qualify to file for citizenship. There are certain exceptions, for military personnel and for spouses of U.S. citizens they only have to wait three years. So once they are ready they've put their time in then they can file an application for citizenship or naturalization, we call it. To do that they fill out an application. They can submit it to their service center. They go through fingerprinting and security checks. They come to the office for an interview that covers the items that are in their application. They also have to take an English and civics test. Then they're scheduled for a ceremony. So that's the process in a nutshell. Of course, it sounds easier than it really is, depending on the person.

Larry Lemmons:
There are other ways to come into the country legally without becoming a citizen. There are work visas and other possibilities. But if you are intent on being a citizen, it will take you longer if you are from china, Mexico, India or the Philippines. That's because there's so much of a backlog from those countries of people wanting to become citizens.

Jeanne Kent:
There's for four different preference categories for those visa numbers. And the categories can get quite large. So the backlog in certain categories can be quite years long. People like china and the fill Philippine is used often as an example. Someone with a brother or sister in the Philippine has about a 20-year wait.

Larry Lemmons:
Congress sets the rules for quotas in place. All countries are under the same quota based on worldwide immigration. And the rules can change quite often over the years.

Diane Brennan:
Well, first with the different administration coming in the immigration laws change. So at one point in my life I had tried to see if I was eligible and i wasn't. Then four years later the rules changed and that's when I found out that my mother could get her U.S. citizenship and sponsor me for a green card. That was the first step. I chose that visa because I was eligible for it. I could also come down on a NAFTA agreement but it's one you have to renew every year and it's up to the border guards whether to renew it. So basically your life is in a border guard's hands whether he says yes or no. I wanted the permanent visa.

Larry Lemmons:
Her next step will be to take the citizenship test. That will take another year. She says being an immigrant helps her understand why people want to come to the United States.

Diane Brennan:
So I can understand the desire of the Mexican people to want to come here and do better. I pretty much came for the same reason. I went as far as I could in my field that I was trying to do in Canada. So in order to better myself and want a better future for myself I wanted to come to the U.S. because i was allowed to do that. So I can relate to what they want to could. Could. -- Do.

Jeanne Kent:
When I'm at a naturalization ceremony and see the emotion in a person's eyes that just became a citizen, it makes you feel good and know how lucky we are.

Jose Cardenas:
Joining us to talk more about the immigration process is Emelia Banuelos Immigration Attorney. Lots of talk about the proposed illegal immigration bills. Has there been much change over the last few years in the existing laws?

Emelia Banuelos:
Basically all these changes started in 1986 with the legalization that they passed in 1986. They passed IRA, which was more of an enforcement based bill. That was in -- so the last big immigration reform was in 1996 but prior to that was in 1986 bill which was when that gave legalization to people who have been here for five years and also people who had some kind of work employment in agriculture.

Jose Cardenas:
And legalization meant it gave them legal rest accident status that they could then apply for citizenship?

Emelia Banuelos:
Right. They were allowed to be temporary residents and then become permanent legal residents after awhile. And then after 5 years they were able to apply for citizenship.

Jose Cardenas:
Then what happened in 1996?

Emelia Banuelos:
1996 they had the immigration reform act, which has basically didn't do anything to allow people to apply. Basically it created punishments in defining aggravated felony, making more people deportable from the United States. It also based people from being able to come to the United States or live in the united states if they have lived here unlawfully. It dramatically changed the immigration laws. It got more difficult. One of the reasons why there's so much chaos in our immigration system is basically based on the 1996 bill.

Jose Cardenas:
The suggestion -- and you hear this in the immigration debates is, well, these people should go home and then come back through the normal process. But how difficult is that?

Emelia Banuelos:
The process right now for some people, even if you're married to a united states citizen, it is impossible for you to be able to go through the process. Because there is no process to be able to. If you enter the country illegally, as a result of the 1996 law, if you enter the country illegally and you didn't file anything before 2001, even if you're married to an united states citizen there is no way that you could obtain a green card in the united states. You are barred for 10-years from being able to apply for anything, even though you're the spouse or the child of an united states citizen.

Jose Cardenas:
Let's say that I'm living in Nogales, Sonora and I meet and I mayor a woman from Nogales, Arizona.

Emelia Banuelos:
Okay.

Jose Cardenas:
And I want to come to the United States and begin the process. How long would it take?

Emelia Banuelos:
You're an united states citizen or legal resident.

Jose Cardenas:
No. I'm a Mexican resident and met my wife and got married in Mexico.

Emelia Banuelos:
You have no United States citizenship son who's over 21 or parent who's an united states citizen.

Jose Cardenas:
My wife is a citizen.

Emelia Banuelos:
Your wife is. Basically she would be able to apply for you if you enter the country legally. Then she will be able.

Jose Cardenas:
How long would that process take?

Emelia Banuelos:
That process right now they very quick if you're married to a united states citizen and enter the country legally. That process right now is taking about six months.

Jose Cardenas:
If I don't have that connection, how long does it take a Mexican national living in Mexico who wants to come here and go throughout process legally, how long would it take for them to get into the United States?

Emelia Banuelos:
They have to -- you either have to have a petition base which is an u.s. citizen or an employer based petition to be able to come to the united states. Now there's no way that you're coming to the United States.

Jose Cardenas:
Finally today tonight we take a look at the may day Phoenix rallies that were expected to show the economic impact of illegal immigration labor. Nadine Arroyo reports.

Nadine Arroyo:
A day without immigrants, and many of them made their way to the streets for a call to action for fair immigration reform. No working, no shopping, no immigrants. These are illegal immigrants and citizens who believe that less is more.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
If you go to any store that is Hispanic it's going to be empty. Construction site after construction site are reporting to us they are closed because they have insufficient workers. We don't have a report yet from the major resorts and hotels. But I am absolutely certain that people are going to be making their own beds today. So the magnitude is substantially greater. It's just that it's not a march. It's not a demonstration. It's an even tougher thing to organize. It is an economic demonstration to everybody that we are everywhere and we contribute to the society in every aspect.

Nadine Arroyo:
The valley is one of more than 30 cities throughout the country taking part in the economic boycott. Organizers believe such a day will prove how instrumental immigrants are to the local and national economy. And they want legislators to understand that this group of people is not about disturbing a process but about being part of a greater nation.

Francisco Heredia:
I was born here. But I come from a line of immigrant's ancestry that came from Mexico and worked here. One of my grandparents came in the Brasero program and uncles and aunts came over here to work in the fields. And all we want is to be here and work and support our families and to really be Americans.

Crowd:
We are America.

Nadine Arroyo:
Hundreds of immigrants gathered in home depot locations, because it's one of several areas immigrants visit to get what they need to do their work. Margarita took the day off to lend her support to the cause. She says she's grateful for the 1986 amnesty, which helped her obtain her citizenship. She only has one thing to share with anybody who believes she doesn't belong here.

Margarita Quintanilla:
I love you. I love you, America.

Anonymous:
Speak English. You're in America. Speak English.

Nadine Arroyo:
Supporters of immigration reform were not the only ones who made their way to the streets. Opponents also shared their views publicly.

Rally opponent:
They publicly. They're not born here. You ain't got a social security card? Go home. You weren't born in America? Go home. You can't speak English? Go home.

Rally opponent:
go back to Mexico. Go back to Vicente fox. Let him take care of your Asses. We're tired of supporting you.

Chris (Rally opponent):
They're doing more than i guess Americans are, though I'm sure lots of them are Americans. But i mean nobody else is willing to stand up. I would give them credit for standing up for what they believe. In but the simple fact is that lots of them are illegal. So if they're here illegally, then they have no right to say anything. In my opinion.

Nadine Arroyo:
Organizers say that they are aware of the many here and throughout the country that are expressing their impatience on the events that have transpired in the past several months but they say they are not concerned about those who want to just see them go away but rather focus on those who would be effected by what they claim are unfair and unjust illegal immigrant laws and they say it's about momentum and a much greater focus, the November election.

Rally member:
Our desire is to keep our people full of hope, that there is one step forward after another. There are some people who say that. Because in fact the strategy was to keep the people motivated and to demand justice until justice was accomplished in the civil rights movement. The voting rights act. In our case its immigration reform and we're going to keep doing it.

Jose Cardenas:
Thanks for joining us tonight on this special edition of horizon. Good night.

Announcer:
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