Immigration Special

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A compilation of stories featured on Horizon and Horizonte throughout April and May that focus on the immigration rallies and marches.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas:
We visit again the immigration rallies of April and May that impacted our state and the nation. Thousands took to the streets of Phoenix to make their voices heard as congress and the Arizona state legislature considered reforming immigration laws. We'll examine these events coming up next on this special edition of "Horizonte."

Announcer:
Horizonte is made possible by contributions of The Friends of Eight members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

José Cárdenas:
On April 10, more than 100,000 marchers crowded on to the Phoenix streets to rally against proposed reforms of immigration laws. This followed a previous protest, March 24 that took most of the city by surprise. On April 10, thousands of people marched from the fairgrounds to the state capitol. What follows are two reports. Nadine Arroyo at the beginning of the march, and Merry Lucero at the capitol.

Nadine Arroyo:
They say they could do it, and they have. More than 100,000 people, mostly immigrants, marched the streets of Phoenix all in the name of immigration reform. Marchers came from all over the state and from all cultural groups in hopes of making local and federal officials understand the need to allow immigrants to become a legal part of the u.s.

Pastor Adele Resmer:
I believe Latinos have contributed to this society, to the economic and social nature of Arizona should have as much ease as becoming citizens as I did as an immigrant from Canada .

Nadine Arroyo:
Phoenix was one of 130 cities across the country that hosted these rallies. In what was called a national day of action. After fallout from the march rally in Phoenix , where many Mexican flags were carried, marchers this time carried the American flag as a sign of commitment and desire to become legal Americans.

Steve Gallardo:
We will open the doors of opportunity …. Si se puede, thank you for coming out.

Nadine Arroyo:
The event began at 10:00 in the morning, with a rally at the state fairgrounds. Supporters, including community activists, made their way to the main stage, encouraging marchers to unite with one peaceful voice for a common cause. And for the first time since the marches began, politicians were visible and vocal.

Steve Gallardo:
We're asking for a comprehensive immigration reform. We're asking for a legal path to citizenship. That's what these people want. They want to live the American dream. We should not shut them out. It's something we all want; we should be doing what we can to help relationships between Mexico and Arizona . We should be working together and trying to solve our immigration problems. That's what we're asking for today. We want comprehensive Immigration reform.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
These are human beings, we're all human beings. Now people that have lived here for many years, they have children here, so what -- the American people do not have the willpower to deport and round up all 11 million people.

Nadine Arroyo:
As the rally continued, masses of people flooded the grounds and the surrounding streets. And in anticipation of a crowd overloud, the march began 35 minutes early. In all -- although the streets were packed and the crowds motivated, the event seemed to have moved along peacefully.

Robert Reveles:
What we want to communicate by this glorious martha we've embarked on, we've walked miles to the capitol to signal to the legislators, we want immigration reform at the federal level, and we want the state legislature to reflect on the real problems, what they're putting together is not going to solve the problem of immigration. Building walls, criminalizing humanitarian aid, telling our children to get educated not providing enough funds for it, telling our students, graduate from high school and seek higher education, and then being told, sorry, but you're going to have to stand in line and be considered something other than a state resident. We're telling the state legislators, enough. Enough of your attempt at building artificial barriers between a country that has been our historic neighbor, and now you are pushing them away at a time when we so desperately need as a country to be nurturing friendships with other countries.

Nadine Arroyo:
Clearly this event has brought out thousands of people on an issue that has this nation divided. And although many of these people are non-English speakers, organizers say, don't underestimate them. This event wasn't just about taking it to the streets. It was about an educational process which teaches many of them their fundamental right as an American. The right to have their voice heard the right to vote. And to assist with that, a voter registration drive was conducted as people made their way into the march. By the start of the event, volunteers claimed to have registered with the assistance of the Maricopa recorders office, several hundred people. Oscar Basoco, a citizen for more than 10 years, this man says he never had an interest to register to vote until now.

Translator:
I did it have to more votes so Latinos have more votes.

Nadine Arroyo:
Others who are not citizens, such as Rosaura Arellano, say even though they cannot vote; their presence at this event does count for something.

Translator:
We're here united, like you see. We're here to show one voice and dedication.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
I certainly hope -- the compromise that was arrived at in the senate -- if it doesn't, it isn't going to dampen our spirits we're going to keep registering voters and we're going to be there in Novemeber and we're going to make sure that our friends are remembered and rewarded and that our enemies are expelled.

Merry Lucero:
Organizers say the gatherings is a show of a united front on one particular issue. And as anti-illegal immigrant sentiments continue to linger, so will their efforts to defeat it, and this unprecedented event is proof of that. The march for comprehensive immigration reform was by far Phoenix 's largest political demonstration in history. Across the nation, similar scenes took place. Many say the unified uprising is a profound indicator of the political and economic mite that the Latino community can carry.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema:
Today is a brand-new day. Today is a historic day. This is a new social movement. A movement for social justice. A movement for reform. We have strength, we have power, we have unity, we have solidarity. We have heart. And what do we want? We want reform, we want justice, and we want equality. So let's start today.

Merry Lucero:
Others say the magnitude of the march simply points to the need for a resolution to the immigration problem.

Sen. Ken Bennett:
I think it's an exciting day. I think not very many people get to see this many people in one place at one time for almost any reason. And so I think it helps to point out both sides of the debate.

Merry Lucero:
Comprehensive immigration reform was clearly the reason for the march.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
And so we ask the U.S. Congress to pass the immigration bill that is just and humane, and make America what it has been all along -- a country of Immigrants who believes in a better life. So America , believe in us, and give us the justice and respect that we deserve!

Merry Lucero:
But the relationship between this march and historic civil rights rallies is hard to ignore.

Joe Leonard:
The people in the 1960's said blacks would take their jobs. And what we've done is broaden America just like we'll broaden to make it inclusive today.

Merry Lucero:
Among the marchers, former followers of Caesar Chavez who demonstrated against migrant workers' low wages and miserable living conditions.

Lucy Ramirez:
This is why we went on the Caesar Chavez movement, but it was all done in peace. Now we're here for another totally different issue, also under a peaceable thing, but we wouldn't like to see any criminal laws passed.

Rep. Pete Rios:
I have the opportunity to march with Caesar in the 1970's, especially here in Arizona in 1971-1972 after a legislation was passed that the governor signed that Cesar and the United Farm Workers of America were against. And those particular marches had to do with bringing knowledge and awakening the Latino community. And I think it was very successful in doing that. Not only here in the state of Arizona , but nationwide. These particular marches are marches that are coming from grass-roots. These are the people, the Latino themselves that are basically saying, what we want is fairness, and justice, and we want a comprehensive immigration policy that deals with us fairly.

Margie Solano:
You can relate it, yes; you can, because at that time it was for the migrant workers, for the migrant workers to make more money. I came from that. My dad walked with Caesar Chavez, my brother was a bodyguard, so you can relate it. Now we have different issues here. And the Hispanic community, all they did was sleep. They fell asleep again after that was done. But now it's like, hey, it's a wake-up.

Merry Lucero:
Social scientists of the 1950's called the growing population of Mexican-American immigrants the sleeping giant. Even then, recognizing the community's potential power. Rallying the current Hispanic population's mite would be massive.

Steve Gallardo:
Over the last five years myself and other members have been here at the capitol fating -- fighting against a lot of the anti-immigration legislation that is here being put out by many of the members that work in the buildings right in back of us. But we need your help. We need your help to change the makeup, the makeup of this body, and this country, and the way to do that, the way to do that is to exercise the most fundamental right everyone has, and that's the right to vote!

Merry Lucero:
Clearly more than the estimated 100,000 people gathered here today to demonstrate their support of humane immigration reform. But at the end of the march, the question still remains -- has the sleeping giant awakened?

Rep. Pete Rios:
These marches that are taking place across the nation, they better listen. Because this is a sleeping giant that is awakening, and tallying the politicos in Washington, D.C. -- telling the politicals, we are not criminals, we didn't come across the -- that border to commit crimes. We came across that border to do the jobs that some Americans wouldn't do.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
We got a long way to go. The sleeping giant will awake. When we give rights to all of our people to vote. At this point one very large adolescent. But it's a spunky adolescent.

José Cárdenas:
Many wonder why undocumented immigration has become so common when legal immigration is an option. I recently discussed the issue with an immigration attorney, but first, Larry Lemmons takes a look at the legal immigration process.

Diane Brennan:
The white house is not disputing the disclosure that president bush gave the go ahead to a leak of pre-war Iraq intelligence.

Larry Lemmons:
Diane Brennan anchors the news at KTAR. She's worked at the station nearly four years. She's also categorized as a permanent resident. A Canadian at birth, she's got a green card now and wants to become an American citizen.

Diane Brennan:
My green card is good for 12 years, but I would like to become a citizen here. I love the country. I'd like to vote. And I'd like to do a few other things. I want to apply on "the amazing race" and you have to be a citizen. So I'm there.

Larry Lemmons:
All kidding aside, the subject of citizenship has been no joke to Brennan.

Diane Brennan:
The experience was definitely a nightmare. From what I was told what would happen in the process was completely different than what I actually had to do. At the time, I've been in the states for nine years, for example, there's a lot of miscommunication. I'd speak with one person at immigration; they'd say file this form. Another one would say, no that was wrong, I don't know who told you that, fill out this form. My documents were lost. I.N.S. had lost them so I had to reapply and pay the fine again. My green card they sent to the wrong address. I had to wait a year until a certain date to be able to contact them and say, what happened to my green card? So I had to wait a year and the whole time I was lost -- it was lost. I had to wait a whole year. Then hi to reapply again and pay the other forms, even though I had sent them the address change. So it was very frustrating.

Larry Lemmons:
The most common misconception we may have about legal immigration is that it's a relatively easy and quick process. We think about the images of the immigrants on Elis Island , the Immigration process was much easier back then. Not so much today.

Jeanne Kent:
Ok. Well, let's try and do it the easy way. First thing someone has to do is immigrate to the united states as a lawful, permanent resident. Generally there's two ways to do that. Either through a family-based petition or employment-based petition. Obviously a family-based petition means someone that's already here in the United States as a lawful permanent resident themselves, or a U.S. citizen can file a petition to immigrate that person to the United States . And with the employer petition, a similar process in that an employer files a petition looking for someone that has a special work skill that's needed and maybe there aren't enough Americans that have that skill. And they'll immigrate the person. Once the person gets here to the United States , generally they have to be a permanent resident and be here for five years before they can qualify to file for citizenship. There are certain exceptions for military personnel, and for spouses of U.S. citizens. They own have to wait three years. So once they are ready, they've put their time in, they can file an application for citizenship, or naturalization, and to do that they fill out an application, they can submit it to their service center. They go to fingerprinting and security checks. They come to the office for an interview that covers the items that are in their application. They also had to take an English and civics test, and assuming everything goes well with that and they pass their interview, they're scheduled for a ceremony. So that's the process in a nutshell. Of course it sounds easier than it really is. Depending on the person.

Larry Lemmons:
There are other ways to come into the country legally without becoming a citizen. There are work visas and other possibilities. But if you are intent on being a citizen, it will take you longer if you are from China , Mexico , India , or the Philippines . That's because there's so much of a backlog from those countries of people wanting to become citizens.

Jeanne Kent:
There's four different preference categories for those visa numbers. And they -- the categories can get quite large. So the backlog in certain categories can be quite -- years long. So people like China and the Philippines , it's used often as an -- someone with a brother or sister living in the Philippines has about a 20-year wait.

Larry Lemmons:
Congress sets the rules as to what preferences and quotas. The quota per country puts residents of larger countries at a disadvantage because all countries are under the same quota based on worldwide immigration. And the rules can change quite often over the years.

Diane Brennan:
First with the different administration coming in, the immigration laws changed. So at one point in my life I tried to see if I was eligible, and I wasn't. Then four years later the rules changed and that's when I found out that my mother could get her U.S. citizenship. And she could sponsor me for a green card. So that was the first step. And I chose that visa because I was eligible for it, I could also come down on a NAFTA agreement, but it's a year visa, you have to renew every year and it's up to the board of guards whether or not to renew it. So your life had is in a border guard's hands. So I wanted the permanent visa.

Larry Lemmons:
Her next step is to take the citizenship test. That will take another year. She says being an immigrant helps her understand why people want to come to the United States .

Diane Brennan:
I can understand the desire of the Mexican people to want to come here and do better. I pretty much came for the same reason. I went as far as I could in my field I was trained to do in Canada , so in order to better myself and want a better future for myself; I wanted to come to the U.S. so I can relate to what they want to do.

Jeanne Kent:
When I'm at a naturalization ceremony and see the emotion in the person's eyes, you really have to see it. It makes you feel so good about being a citizen of the United States , how lucky we are.

José Cárdenas:
Joining us now to talk more about the legal immigration process is Amelia Banuelos, an immigration attorney. It's good to have you back on "Horizonte."

Amelia Banuelos:
It's a pleasure being here.

José Cárdenas:
A lot of discussion about proposed changes in the immigration process and the McCain-Kennedy bill, senator Kyl, but has there been change over the last five years, let's say, in the existing law?

Amelia Banuelos:
Basically all these changes started in 1986, with the legalization. They have been -- they passed more of an enforcement-based bill. And now we're in 2006. The last big immigration reform was in 1996, but prior to that was a 1986 bill. It gave legalization to people who had been here five years and people who had had status in work and agriculture.

José Cárdenas:
And legalization said that they could then apply for citizenship?

Amelia Banuelos:
They were allowed temporary residence and get permanent residence, and after five years they were able to apply for citizenship.

José Cárdenas:
And what happened in 1996?

Amelia Banuelos:
1996 they had the immigration reform act, which is basically didn't do anything to allow people to apply -- basically it was created punishments in defining the aggravated felonies, it -- making more people deportable from the United States. It also barred people from being able to come to the United States or live in the United States if they this lived here unlawfully. So it dramatically changed the law.

José Cárdenas:
So it got harder.

Amelia Banuelos:
Definitely got more difficult. One of the reasons why there's so much chaos right now in out immigration system is basically based on the 1996 bill.

José Cárdenas:
The suggestion, and you hear this in the immigration debates, these people should go home, and then come back through the normal process. But how difficult is that?

Amelia Banuelos:
The process right now for some people, even if you're married to a United States citizen, it is impossible for you to be able to go through the process. Because there is no process. If you went to the country illegally as result of 1996 law, if you went to the country illegally, and you didn't file anything before 2001, even if you're married to a U.S. citizen, there is no way you can obtain a green card in the united states. You are barred for 10 years from being able to apply for anything. Even though you're the spouse or the child of a United States citizen.

José Cárdenas:
Let's say that I'm living in Nogales , and I meet and I marry a woman from Nogales , Arizona . And I want to come to the United States and begin the process. How long would it take.

Amelia Banuelos:
You're a United States citizen or legal resident?

José Cárdenas:
I'm a Mexican resident, my wife, we got married in Mexico .

Amelia Banuelos:
You have no United States citizen -- parent or --

José Cárdenas:
My connection is my wife.

Amelia Banuelos:
Basically she will be able to apply for you, if you ask the country legally.

José Cárdenas:
How long would that process take?

Amelia Banuelos:
Right now, they're very quick. If you're married to a U.S. citizen and enter the country legally. That process is taking about six months.

José Cárdenas:
If you don't have that connection, how long does it take a Mexican national living in Mexico who wants to come here, wants to go through the process legally. How long would it take for them to come to the United States ?

Amelia Banuelos:
You have to have a petition base, a U.S. citizen, or an employer base petition to be able to come to the United States . Or else there's no way you're coming to the United States .

José Cárdenas:
Finally tonight, we take a look at the may day Phoenix rallies that were intended to show the economic impact of immigrant labor. Nadine Arroyo reports.

Nadine Arroyo:
A day without immigrants, and many of them made their way to the streets for a call to action for fair immigration reform. No working, no shopping, no immigrants. These are illegal immigrants, and citizens who believe that less is more.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
When you go to any store that treats the Hispanic community it's going to be empty. There is construction site after construction site that are reporting that they are closed because we have insufficient workers. We don't have reports yet from the major resorts and hotels, but I am absolutely certain that people are going to be making their own beds today. So the magnitude is greater, it's just that it's not a march, it's not a demonstration, it's an even tougher thing to organize. It is an economic demonstration to everybody that we are everywhere, and we contribute to this society in every aspect.

Nadine Arroyo:
The valley is one of more than 30 cities throughout the country taking part in the economic boycott. Organizers believe such a day will prove how instrumental immigrants are to the local and national economy. And they want legislators to understand this group of people is not about disturbing the process, but about being part of a greater nation.

Francisco Heredia:
I was born here, but I come from a line of immigrants. I came from Mexico and worked here, one of my grandparents came here, and uncles and aunts came over here to work in the fields, and all we want is to be here and work and support our families, and really be Americans.

Nadine Arroyo:
Hundreds of immigrants gathered in various valley home depot locations. Home depot because it's one of several areas where immigrants visit to get what they need to do their work. This person took the day off to lend her support to the cause. She's grateful for the 1986 amnesty that helped her obtain her citizenship. She only has one thing to share with anyone who believes she doesn't belong here.

Margarita Quintanilla:
I love you, America .

Man1:
Speak English! You're in America ! Speak English!

Nadine Arroyo:
Supporters of immigration reform were not the only ones who made their way to the streets. Opponents also shared their views publicly.

Man1:
They're not born here; you ain't got a social security card, go home. You weren't born in America , go home. You can't speak English, go home.

Man2: Go back to Mexico .
Go back to Vicente Fox. Let him take care of your asses, we're tired of supporting you.

Chris:
They're doing more than Americans are. I'm sure lots of them are Americans, but nobody else is willing to stand up. I give them credit for standing up for what they believe in. The simple fact is that lots of them are illegal. If they're here illegally, then they have no right to say anything in my opinion.

Nadine Arroyo:
Organizers say that they are aware of the many here and throughout the country that are expressing their impatience on the events that have transpired in the pass several months, but say they're not concerned about those who want to see them go away. They'd rather focus on those -- they say it's about momentum and a much greater focus. The November elections.

Alfredo Gutierrez:
Our goal is to keep our people full of hope. That there is one step forward after another. Some people who say that perhaps are too young to remember the civil rights movement. That in fact was the strategy to keep people motivated and demand justice until justice was accomplished. In our case it's immigration reform, and we're going to keep doing it.

Man3:
We've got family! We're human!

José Cárdenas:
That's all for some special edition of "Horizonte." I'm José Cárdenas. For all of us here at "Horizonte," have a good night.

Amelia Banuelos: Immigration attorney;

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