Immigration: The debate goes on

Posted March 23, 2007

Angelica Salas, executive director for Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, spoke at the annual meeting and dinner March 10 at Claremont United Methodist Church.

Salas spoke among a group of about 35 community and Peace with Justice Center of the Pomona Valley members.

Immigration has been a major discussion for years because it is a key factor to why the United States is over-populated, but there are many people who want to help.

“We must stand for justice and justice for all,” Salas said.

The Mexican-born Salas began her immigration rights work as a volunteer for CHIRLA in 1995 and when she was only 29 years old, she became the executive director.

CHIRLA is an organization located in Los Angeles and serves immigrants from all over the world.

The staff facilitates over a dozen programs to help immigrants by educating them about their rights, to prepare immigrant youth to become leaders of today and to assist them in any other areas.

Salas spoke about success and challenges she and other immigrants have faced in the past.

Salas is originally an immigrant because she came under false documentation after she failed many times by trying to enter through the mountains and over seas to the Unites States to be with her parents when she was four years old.

“We knew ‘la migra’ was something very real,” Salas said when she described how she worried of getting caught in the United States.

She shared how her mother also came to the United States illegally and was raided at work and deported back to Mexico, but successfully entered the United States after another try.

Salas and her family have experienced the sacrifices and struggles to try and make a life in this country.

She questioned work site raids and spoke very strongly about how they are not ethical.

“There is much energy, much courage of immigrants to change the situation,” Salas said.

Salas described other stories of some of the undocumented immigrants who tried to leave their country.

“Over 12 million people don’t have a chance or opportunity to legalize their status,” Salas said. “They are living in constant fear.”

Since 1996, 85 percent of Mexican immigrants have come into the United States undocumented.

There are about 150 million people who are migrants from different countries.

“Migration starts when you cannot thrive in your nation,” Salas said.
Jerico Panta, an accounting major at Mt. San Antonio College, is in the process of becoming a United States citizen through naturalization.

“People move to this country for a better life because it has more employee opportunities,” Panta said.

“The stories Salas shared about her experiences of coming to the United States were very emotional and I couldn’t believe how so many people died trying to come here in search for a better life,” Panta said.

Salas is a very motivated speaker and urged the audience to get involved and help with the fight against the immigration policy.

“Change the immigration laws,” Salas said. “Those who are already here legalize their status; give them an opportunity.”

The audience asked many questions and developed a discussion of whether a wall should be built to block any additional immigrants coming from Mexico into the United States.

Dorena Wright, professor of English and chair of the executive committee of the Peace with Justice Center, was also in attendance.

The organization is a non-profit corporation where they promote peace and justice in the local community and the world.

“Peace with Justice is an organization that grew out of anti-war movements, but it has a wider scope than simply a peace movement,” Wright said.

The board discussed how they wanted a speaker for the dinner and Salas was asked to participate because some of the committee has heard her speak before.

“Immigration has been a much debated topic over the past year and continues to be a current topic,” Wright said.

Salas’ closing to the audience was to speak up and be heard because we all can make a difference.

Vanessa Avilez can be reached at

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