I was walking down from Tropicana Gardens towards Pardall Road. I pulled out my cell phone to call my mom. It was a typical scene, nothing too special. The conversation started out with the mundane then started to get more political. My mom and I then started talking about immigration, immigrant rights and assimilation. You see: She went through the struggle to become an American citizen. She was a housecleaner, a brewer and a nanny just to pay the bills and aid my family back in the 1970s. She had her green card, and she would periodically renew it whenever it expired. Though to this day she may not read or write too well, she speaks English fluently.

So, the question remains: Why was I, a son of a poor West African immigrant, leaning more on the side of the Republicans on May Day? The answer is complex. I firmly believe in equal rights for all; you usually should get what you deserve. With that said, shouldn’t illegal immigrants come over legally? They should get all the rights and benefits of being an American if they actually achieve this status.

After the conversation with my mom, I was still on Embarcadero Del Mar headed towards the Pardall tunnel. I then received a phone call from my dad. He was complaining of his job as a French teacher in an underperforming school in San Bernardino. He would regularly complain about parents not being able to speak English and therefore not being able to understand the situation of their kids.

I used to go to that school, but luckily my parents are a part of the upper-middle class. My options in life were – and still are – more open than many others that attended. However, I still remember classrooms in which not enough seats were provided, many textbooks were copyrighted in the1970s, and just a general sense of neglect. I could only imagine the situation in cities like Mecca, Calif. or Coachella, Calif. For these two cities easily have some of the highest amounts of poverty in the United States.

The cities in the Coachella Valley, and to a certain extent my high school, give another compelling reason for my ideological beliefs. The school officials and city officials literally do not know how many people live in cities such as Mecca or Coachella. When an immigrant was asked why he did not disclose the number of people actually living in his home, he said that he did it out of fear. He was afraid that the city officials would turn his housemates over to INS. The city officials of Mecca did not plan to turn any immigrant to INS; rather they wanted a more accurate approximation of how many people live in Mecca. This was in order to attain grants to build affordable housing and also a grant to build a new elementary school. It is easier to plan for citizens, since officials know about how many people there are. Therefore it is easier to attain grants and other services from the state and nation.

I finally made it to Pardall Road and I quickly met up with some friends. At the protest, I met with many people on the other side. I was first called a racist that needed to go to my KKK meeting – being half black and part Jewish I found the comment amusing. I realized that this was simply an emotional reaction. Emotions tend to run high at events such as these, especially when there is a counter-protest. After a while, I went up to people, smiled and asked their names. To be honest, I forgot the names of the people I met, but what I do remember is that once everyone’s emotions were set aside, both sides were reiterating the same wants. Both sides wanted equality, protection and a better standard of living. Both sides also wanted a reform of INS. The definitions differed, as well as the means, however, the common theme that day was that we all wanted to make America better.

Joshua Freeman is a sophomore biological science major.