A crowd of residents marched from Rengstorff Park to City Hall on Thursday evening, May 1, calling attention to problems created by the country's immigration policies.
"What this march means for me is hope for the community," said Sahara Velez as the marchers rounded El Camino Real onto Castro Street. "As a community we can fight for our citizenship."
Some in the crowd said American economic forces and policies were causing a sort of "forced migration" to the United States, and put some blame on the North American Free Trade Agreement for causing poverty in Mexico.
But it's not always for jobs that people leave Latin America, Velez said. She said she no longer felt safe in Mexico after she was kidnapped and held for ransom there. After her release, she decided to seek out her brother in the U.S., even though it meant crossing the border illegally. "It feels safe to live here," she said, explaining that she now works as a live-in nanny in Los Altos. "I am very lucky to be in this position. I can't be there anymore because I will feel insecure."
Resident Wendee Crofoot said immigrants deserved a "clearly defined path to citizenship similar to how my family came eight generations ago."
Velez says she is trying to get her citizenship, having applied before she came, but "it takes forever," possibly 10 years or more.
Sunnyvale resident Kevin Morales was carrying a sign that said "The parties change, the injustices continue." He noted that President Barack Obama has "deported more people than any president before." He added that Democrats say fixing the problem is a top priority, "but so far they've done the exact opposite."
When asked what motivated him to march, one man simply said "Have you ever had your entire family separated?" and declined to say anything more.
When marchers arrived at Civic Center plaza, they were met by live music and church choir, which sang "De Colores", a tradional Mexican folk song that was sung by the United Farm Workers Union during its heyday.
Former Mayor Laura Macias read the poem by Emily Lazarus engraved on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Macias, now president of Sacred Heart Nativity Schools in San Jose, said immigration defines "who we are as a country" and said there is no such thing as a "zero generation American." If you've come to the U.S. "you are a first generation American."
Former mayor and state Senator Sally Lieber encouraged the crowd, saying "Don't give up before the breakthrough!" She said she believed that California would soon begin to issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants again.
Day Worker Center director Maria Marroquin, who went on a hunger strike a year ago, was jubilant all day despite the relatively small turnout this year. "This is one of many steps we have to take together" she told the crowd.
Margaret Capriles was the only candidate for in this year's City Council race to accept an invitation to speak at the rally.
"The special thing about Mountain View is its diversity," Capriles said. "I just hope we can make sure every one of you can vote." She thanked Marroquin and Pulitzer prize winner and former Mountain View resident Jose Antonio Vargas for keeping immigration issues in front of people.
When asked by the Voice if she would follow Marroquin's suggestion that the city pass an ordinance allowing non-citizen Mountain View residents be allowed to vote in local elections, she said, "I would love to."
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