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UCSD Students March in Support of Immigrant Rights

By Ioana Patrigenaru | April 17, 2006

The Immigration Debate: A Primer

Four UCSD experts talk about the issues that lawmakers will have to resolve. Read more >

Chanting in English and Spanish and holding home-made signs, UCSD students, faculty and staff took part last week in a pro-immigration demonstration -- possibly the biggest in San Diego history.

Anywhere between 50,000 people, according to police, to 100,000 people, according to organizers, marched Sunday from Balboa Park to the County Administration Building in downtown San Diego. Many waved the American flag. A few held up Mexican flags.

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About 50,000 to 100,000 demonstrated. Many waved U.S. flags and held up home-made signs.

The San Diego march was part of a wave of protests that swept the nation in recent weeks, from Washington, D.C., to Georgia, Arizona and California, sparked by a series of immigration reform proposals in Congress. The House of Representatives passed a bill in December that would make it a felony to enter the country illegally or to help anyone who does.

Latinos felt that the House bill would put their whole community at risk, said UCSD Literature Professor Jorge Mariscal, who marched Sunday in San Diego.  It’s not just immigrants who are demonstrating, it’s US citizens, too, he said. He also cautioned that protesters aren’t marching to support illegal immigration.

“That’s not why they’re out there,” Mariscal said. “They want their parents and grandparents treated fairly.”

Miguel Torres, a history major, said his father had been repeatedly deported before a 1986 amnesty allowed him to become a legal immigrant. Torres said some of his relatives still are undocumented and could be convicted of a felony under the House proposal. Torres himself could face charges, if he was caught driving them or helping them in any way, he said.

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Miguel Torres (center) and dozens of other UCSD students marched last week during an immigration protest in San Diego.

“It’s almost terrorism,” said Torres, who is president of the UCSD chapter of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or MEChA. 

Hispanic students and faculty weren’t the only ones marching last week. UCSD student Won Bae held up a sign opposing HR 4437, the bill that would criminalize illegal immigration.

“I’m all for immigration because this country needs it,” Bae said.

Graduate student Jewels Smith held up a sign saying “Pick Your Own Cotton, Pick Your Own Fruit.” She said she was there to support immigrants’ struggle and to oppose globalization.

About 70 UCSD undergraduate and graduate students took part in the march, organizers said. MEChA and Kaibigang Pilipino lead the effort, said organizer Shannon Dulaney. The Center for Social Progress was involved as well, she said.

“Everyone has had a great response,” she said Sunday.

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