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[CBS September 1] Four-Day Immigration March Begins in Chinatown

By September 11, 2006 No Comments

Four-Day Immigration March Begins In Chinatown
Group Wants Public Hearings On Immigration Laws
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Rafael Romo
Reporting

(CBS) CHICAGO As with other immigration reform marches in Chicago this year, Friday’s featured plenty of Mexican flags and signs with slogans written in Spanish. But there were also flags from the Philippines and people like Sally Chung holding signs in Korean that read “The Power To Change Is In Our Hands.”

Chung, 16, was one of about 500 people who planned to participate in a four-day march that is scheduled to end Monday 50 miles away in front of the suburban office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

“The issue is it’s time for (the government) to see us as Americans,” said Chung, who traveled from Los Angeles to participate in the march.

Organizers said they chose Hastert’s Batavia office as the march’s ultimate destination to highlight what they say are the Illinois Republican’s anti-immigration positions. Hastert has suggested fences, pedestrian inhibitors and the use of the Army Corps of Engineers and Border Patrol could be used to help seal the country’s border with Mexico.

And they say they chose the starting point — Chicago’s Chinatown — to demonstrate that this country is a nation of immigrants and that many of them feel the pain of waiting for years at a time for relatives to gain permission to come to the United States and make their families whole again.

“For the Asian community, this is about family unification,” said Lawrence Benito, a Philippine American whose mother moved here decades ago to work as a nurse.

“My mother has been waiting for 23 years for her brother to come here,” he said.

밯e’re marching because there are over one million Asian-Americans who are also undocumented; we’re marching because hundreds of thousands of Asian-American families are separated,?said Becky Belcore of the Korean-American Resource and Cultural Center.

Hastert, whose district includes some of Chicago’s suburbs and outlying rural counties, has been emphasizing the immigration issue in making the case to voters that they should keep Congress in GOP hands.

밒n the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are working together; the president is willing to work with the Democrats on this,?said Joshua Hoyt of the Immigration Coalition. 봖peaker Hastert decided that he wants to use this for short-term, cheap, political advantage.?br />
Brad Hahn, a spokesman for Hastert, said that the speaker is not planning to meet with the marchers and is not planning on even being in his office Monday. But he said Hastert is focused on the issue, has talked to people on all sides of the debate and has visited the United States-Mexico border.

“It’s important to note it isn’t a question of who can yell the loudest, but finding the most effective solutions to securing the borders and strengthening our immigration system,” Hahn said.

In Little Village, the protestors were welcomed by hundreds of supporters, including several priests.

밠any families that I know in my own parish, they’ve been waiting 12, 15, 17 years,?said Fr. Peter McQuinn of Priests for Justice for Immigrants. 밃nd, you know, so it’s just like why is it taking so long??br />
But opposition to their cause is also rising.

밯e’re outraged at them. We’ve been outraged for years!?said Carl Segvich of the Chicago Minutemen Project.

Segvich says all illegal immigrants should be arrested and kicked out of the country.

밯e will be destroyed from within, and that’s what we’re witnessing sadly, tragically today. We’re being invaded and taken over by illegal aliens,?he said.

Friday’s rally was a fraction of the size of those held in Chicago earlier this year, including one that attracted about 400,000 in May and another that drew, according to police, about 10,000 in July.

But organizers said the number does not reflect a diminishing interest in the issue, and said that even though perhaps 500 people will participate in the entire march, many times that number will take part in portions or attend rallies along the route.

They also stressed that marchers from countries such as South Korea, India and the Philippines illustrates that immigration reform is of keen interest among immigrants from countries around the globe.

“We see ourselves working together, hand in hand, with other immigrants,” said Bernarda Lo Wong, the president of the Chinese American Service League, Inc.

The marchers will sleep two nights in Catholic churches and one night in a mosque, part of the effort to educate people that immigration reform is an issue that affects a wide variety of people, said Gabe Gonzalez, one of the event’s organizers.

Gonzalez said he’s not concerned that the marchers won’t talk to Hastert, particularly since about 5,000 people are expected to attend Monday’s rally outside his office.

“(With) 5,000 people in downtown Batavia, the message will be pretty clear this issue is still on the minds of right-thinking people,” he said.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker contributed to this report.

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