More than a hundred demonstrators marched more than three miles from Valley High School to the UNLV Alumni Amphitheater May 23, in support of the DREAM Act — proposed legislation to grant undocumented students a path to citizenship through higher education or military service.
The demonstration, organized by UNLV’s MEChA chapter — a national Chicano student organization, along with the United Coalition for Immigrant Rights, included community supporters, UNLV students and high schoolers around the city.
Evelyn Flores, a UCIR advisor, said that she and her fellow organizers spent countless hours to make sure the event included both high school and college students.
“Once they learn about what the DREAM Act is, then they can see the good of it,” she said. “[The Act will open] the doors to higher education for the better of society.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department escorted the procession and blocked lanes of traffic to ensure the marchers’ safety.
Passing cars honked in support of the demonstrators as they displayed signs and chanted in English and Spanish. One of the chants, “The people united will never be divided,” was a quote from Ernesto “Che” Guevara — an Argentine Marxist revolutionary and ideologue, who was partly responsible for the 1959 Cuban revolution, which saw the overthrow of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Despite bad weather, the demonstrators arrived at UNLV two hours after leaving Valley High School.
When the group arrived at UNLV, a petition was circulated in support of the DREAM Act, to be sent to Nevada congressmen.
At the rally, UCIR Vice President Amanda Rida gave an encouraging speech to attendees.
“Our mission is to advance and protect the civil and human rights of immigrants and migrants and to unify the assistant”
We want to eradicate discrimination based on immigrant status, national origin, ethnic identity, race, gender, class and native language.
We want to integrate immigrants and migrants into the community…while not forcing them to give up their culture.”
MEChA member Xuanito Espinoza-Cuellar also had an important message to share.
“We are not here today asking for favors or special treatment,” he said. “We are not here today asking for forgiveness or for amnesty because our community has committed no crime. Escaping poverty and trying to feed your family is not a crime. It is survival.”
He told his own personal story of coming to America as a child with his grandmother, with nothing but a small icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“When I’m told that people like me or like my brothers and sisters should go back to our countries, I tell them that we are not going back anywhere, that instead we are going forward to a culture of equality,” he said. “We are going forward to a realization of our dreams of justice. We are going forward because we are the future. It is them who are going back to a history of intolerance.”
Flores explained the goals of the coalition, drawing on Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Our dream is guided by a vision of the world without arbitrary and dehumanizing borders, in which people are not judged by the color of their skin, their economic status, their sexual orientation, their gender and much less their immigration status, but by the content of their character,” Flores said. She then signaled to the Student Union.
“The majority of the people who constructed this building are brown, are immigrants,” she said. “When I see them walking to their cars, my heart tears…because they will never have access to that which they have created. Their sacrifice will never be retained.”
MEChA representatives Edgar Flores said that with the immigration issue at the forefront of debate, education is what people should focus on. He said that there are many children who didn’t choose to come to America, but are here because of their parents.
He added that many immigrants that have good grades throughout high school and want to continue their education should be able to. According to him, the DREAM Act is the solution.
Edgar said that the best way to approach the immigration issue is to encourage young immigrants to work hard, go to college, be upstanding citizens and simply be good Americans.