Immigration policies spur Portales protest

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales News-Tribune Somos Un Pueblo Unido organizer Marina Pina uses a bullhorn to work up the crowd of protesters.

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales News-Tribune
Somos Un Pueblo Unido organizer Marina Pina uses a bullhorn to
work up the crowd of protesters.

By Christina Calloway

Rocio Vargas’ worries extend beyond that of the average mother’s. In addition to making sure her family is safe and sound, the 37-year-old fears she’ll be ripped away from the family she supports here in Portales because she’s a Mexican immigrant.

Vargas said she’s seen it happen to her neighbors, friends and family and she fears she’s next. While her husband is a lawful permanent resident and a dairy worker, she said due to immigration laws, she can’t change her status.

Vargas has been in the area for 12 years and is raising two American children who she says need their mother.

Her story and others like hers are ones she wants Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., to keep in mind when voting on immigration legislation.

Vargas was one of nearly 60 in protest of Pearce and his stance on immigration policy Wednesday evening in front of the Roosevelt County Courthouse.

The protest was part of a series in Pearce’s congressional district this week organized by the New Mexican immigration activism group Somos Un Pueblo Unido to send Pearce the message that immigrant families will hold him accountable for his votes on immigration policy.

Organizer Marcela Diaz said even though Pearce’s staff tells them he supports reform, she said his voting record proves otherwise and she feels he is not serving the working families who she feels are the backbone of the industries that support Pearce.

Eric Layer, communications director for Pearce, said Somos Un Pueblo Unido is not looking at the facts.

“Congressman Pearce is a strong advocate for immigration reform,” said Layer in a statement. “He has spoken out strongly in favor of immigration reform and introduced bipartisan immigration reform legislation.”

Vargas, who joined others in the yelling of protest chants, said she wants Pearce to support stronger immigration reform.

“We need permanent solutions so that families aren’t divided, including my own,” Vargas said. “My family would fall apart because my husband as well as my children need me here to support the family.”

Mario Aguierre, 23, said he came here as an immigrant from Juarez, Mexico, at 4 years old and has since then obtained a permit to work and a social security number to pay taxes.

Aguierre said without his permit, he wouldn’t be able to work at a job he loves as a teacher in Clovis. He said he protested Wednesday to encourage Pearce to support citizenship for people like him.

“I want Pearce to see how united we are and how important this is to us,” Aguierre said.

Rene Alanis, 42, is a dairy worker who works nights helping cows give birth. Alanis has worked here legally for nearly 12 years and said he was frustrated with Pearce’s voting record.

“I feel frustrated because (the current system) exploits us for the little money they give us back,” Alanis said. “As dairy workers, we don’t receive the same rights that other workers might get. That’s what’s blocking reform, we have no support from the industry we give so much to.”

Alanis is opposed to the legislation Pearce has proposed, saying it is no compromise for hardworking immigrants such as himself.

Shyanne Sansom, a 36-year-old graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University, said though she is not an immigrant, it is important that their cause have allies.

Sansom, of Roswell, said it’s important to make a difference.

“I’m a citizen, I’m not a minority and they’re the face of my country and so am I and we stand together,” Sansom said.

Sansom said she gets angry at the thought of families being torn apart due to immigration laws.

“It lights a flame in me to make a difference. We have representatives and they have to listen to us because I am a voter and a voice for those who can’t vote,” Sansom said. “(Immigrants) need me as much as my country needs them.”