Monday, May 2, 2011

2011-05-02 "Napans rally downtown for immigrants’ rights" by REBECCA HUVAL from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
In 75-degree heat on Sunday, a crowd of almost 100 demonstrators played Mexican music, hoisted protest posters and gathered around downtown Napa for the annual rally for immigration reform.
“I believe immigrant workers deserve full rights as workers in the United States,” said Guillermo Herrera, a Napa Valley College student. “I believe human rights should transcend all borders.”
May 1 is celebrated in Mexico as International Workers’ Day. The holiday is also commemorated in the United States by rallies nationwide for undocumented workers’ rights, including the Napa County march that started in 2006 in St. Helena by the local activist group Latinos Unidos.
Many of the marchers were immigrants from Mexico and Central America advocating for the immigration reform that President Barack Obama promised — a pathway to legalization for the
11 million undocumented residents in the United States.
The Napa march also brought up related issues, such as the California DREAM Act, which would give undocumented students in the U.S. options for legalization.
Daisy Chavez, a DREAM Act Coalition member at the Napa Valley College, wore a DREAM Act sandwich board around her body.
Her coalition will host a conference at Napa Valley College on May 29 to teach first-generation and undocumented college students about their funding options.
“I want them to know they’re not alone and there’s support here for them in Napa,” said Chavez, 18, of Napa.
She was excited to march on Sunday, she said. “Our voices get to be heard. We have freedom of speech to show how we feel — that everyone should have equal rights.”
Alongside her, the president of the Democrats of Napa Valley, Joanne Gifford, also marched with the group several blocks from Main Street to Socol Avenue and back.
“I think there’s a growing amount of xenophobia [in Napa],” Gifford said. “It seems to be OK to immigrant-bash in a way I haven’t seen before.”
She said she was proud to march beside Napa’s Latino students and workers. “It makes a statement: We support the equal treatment of all people.”
Passersby and business owners in downtown Napa stepped outside of stores to watch the marchers, reading the signs that said “Keep Arizona Out of California” and “We’re ALL Immigrants.”
“I’ve not experienced anything like this,” said Mike Glavin, who moved to Napa from San Luis Obispo six years ago, and now owns a wine bottling company. “San Luis Obispo is a strict town — there’s no demonstrations or anything.”
Glavin said the protest inspired him to do research on vineyard worker treatment in Napa. “Being in the wine business, I don’t know if there are unfair practices,” he said.
Erika Cazares, 20, was walking down the street with her cousin when they saw the demonstrators walk down First Street.
“They have a really diverse group,” Cazares said. “It shows that people are more open, and maybe breaking some of the social barriers some of us have.”

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