Cries of “¡Si se puede! ¡Si se puede!” rang down State Street yesterday, as nearly 500 people — hoisting both an American flag and an image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” — marched through Santa Barbara demanding immigration reform and recognition of migrant workers’ labors.
“The Procession for the Dignity and Hope of the Immigrant,” organized by the Santa Barbara Alliance for Immigrant Rights, began last night at Alameda Park, where supporters of differing ethnic and social backgrounds gathered in support of undocumented immigrants’ rights. For half an hour the crowd marched slowly down State Street, shouting slogans for change, half in Spanish and half in English, until it eventually reached the Santa Barbara Courthouse, where a panel of speakers shared their personal experiences and thoughts to honor the contributions of immigrants in the United States.
Although the large crowd gathered to mark the beginning of the “week of the immigrant,” Francisco Cervantes, one of the coordinators, stressed that May 1 should not be the only day immigrants are celebrated.
Cervantes, along with other speakers and attendees, openly called for immigration reform and a policy that does not “dehumanize” migrants.
“There has been no real immigration reform policy which treats immigrants rights as human rights,” Cervantes said.
The ceremony represented the first anniversary of the national boycott and protests of last year, which came in reaction to the controversial Sensenbrenner Bill, also known as H.R. 4437 that passed in House of Representatives in late 2005. The bill, which would have in part criminalized public service agencies for providing assistance to undocumented immigrants, never passed the Senate but sparked protests around the country.
Millions around the country were involved in these protests, and Santa Barbara was no exception.
“Last year 10 to 15,000 people from the Santa Barbara and outlying areas protested in opposition to the Sensenbrenner Bill,” Cervantes said.
Although Spanish was shouted throughout the protest, the procession was not restricted to any single racial group. Speakers included Josie Martin, a Jewish woman who escaped the Nazis and left for America in 1947 and a Philipino woman, who shared her account of her father’s experience as a Philipino immigrant in America. These speeches and others stressed the tale of the struggling immigrant in America — which the speakers said transcended race.
Many find life difficult in the “land of the free,” Armbruster-Sandoval said.
“How do we stay hopeful in a hopeless world? I have no good answer to that question, but we must always remember in our hearts that we are human,” Armbruster-Sandoval said.