May Day marches take place in SJ

May 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Activists in many parts of the Bay Area staged 'May Day' marches for immigration reforms. One of them took place in San Jose and made its way to City Hall, despite the rain.

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There was a strong sense in the streets of San Jose that this might be the year that the plea for immigration reform will be heard in Washington. The weather may have been hostile, but the rain didn't dampen their resolve.

Organizations representing community groups, labor and religious campaigns believe President Obama is receptive to reform, given pledges he made during the campaign.

A key goal is passing legislation that would give legal status to an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, keeping families together.

A postcard campaign directed at President Obama is underway. Nearly 1,800 cards have been collected over two months.

SIREN, which stands for Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network, isn't worried that the recession will be a major roadblock.

"If the president decides to take on the issue of immigration reform, in essence, he's also tackling the economy and the need for health care. All of these issues are interconnected. They're not conflicting, and focusing on one doesn't take away attention from the other," said Vanessa Sandoval from SIREN.

Reform opponents are concerned that the economy will be hurt by allowing more immigration.

"The more people we bring in, the more job seekers we will see, and therefore the harder it is to address unemployment problems as well as health care, education and many other problems which are not caused by immigration but exacerbated by immigration," said Yeh Ling-Ling from Alliance for a Sustainable USA.

The issue is emotional on both sides: one side wants to see immigration sweeps end, while the other wants to see tighter enforcement.

Compared to past years' marches, Friday's turnout might be interpreted as a sign of waning support.

"Some people are concerned about their health and the swine flu, which we understand. And also people are concerned about the weather, and they're things that affect the turnout. But I think that the support for immigration reform is there," said Sandoval.

The White House has indicated it will kick off debate on immigration reform later this year, but there's no specific timeline or deadline.

The march went from the heart of San Jose's Hispanic District to City Hall.

When this event first started in 2006, organizers say 11,000 people attended. This year, there were slightly more than 1,000. Those at the rally blame the weather and the swine flu. Volunteers handed out information about the H1N1 virus. Public health officials continue to tell people not to worry about being in large crowds, unless you have flu like symptoms, but some refuse to take any chances.

Regardless of the obstacles, the goal is unchanged -- to live harmoniously and on equal footing, in the United States.

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