“A day without immigrants” became a reality Monday when thousands – including a contingent from ULV – marched throughout the Los Angeles area to show their discontent with a proposed federal law that would seriously limit the rights of undocumented individuals in this country.
Most University of La Verne students attended regular classes, though some on this culturally diverse campus joined in the demonstrations.
“I wanted to participate, to do something, to be active in some way,” said Eduardo Rodriguez, a senior Criminology major.
Rodriguez and seven of his classmates joined the 400,000 protestors marching in downtown Los Angeles from the McArthur Park area down Wilshire Blvd to La Brea Avenue, where demonstrators waved American flags and chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes we can!”)
“It was unplanned (but) in a few minutes we organized (the group) to go to the march,” Rodriguez said.
Also on campus about 20 people gathered at the University mall for a teach-in to show their support.
“We wanted to share how unjust this is,” ULV Multicultural Affairs Director Daniel Loera said. “How could we as a nation have such a (negative attitude toward) immigration - the very founding of this country?”
At the sit-in, students and faculty shared their views about the current legislation along with some personal stories about how immigration affects them.
“It is such a personal thing for people,” Loera said, “It impacts all of us not just the immigrant community.”
Loera had planned on attending the march on his own and was pleasantly surprised, when after inviting one student, six more showed up at his door.
“The readiness and willingness to get up and go the march just like that,” Loera said, “it gave me some hope that this is a very (important) thing for students.”
Students and immigrants across the country showed solidarity by calling in sick or not showing up for work.
Here, many immigrant employees of Sodhexo, the company that provides housekeeping and food services at ULV, chose to demonstrate by wearing white t-shirts but still working Monday.
Aaron Neilson general manager of food services, said his immigrant employees value their work.
He said his employees were given the opportunity to miss work, as long as their managers knew ahead of time.
Haile Rodriguez, general manager of housekeeping expected 15 members of her staff to take Monday off, but almost everyone showed up in white T-shirts.
Loera said he was not surprised.
“They don’t know the language, they don’t know the system... they (may be) afraid of being deported,” Loera said.
Some ULV employees chose to demonstrate by attending some of the local rallies.
There were rallies held at local universities including the Claremont Colleges, Cal Poly Pomona and UC Riverside. Protestors also rallied throughout San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Several chains of supermarkets, including Cardenas, Superior and Liborios also supported the boycott by closing down for the day as thousands of employees of these supermarkets participated in the march.
Some people felt the boycott was not as important as the demonstrations, since a single day will hardly have any effect in the economy.
“There (are) going to be a lot of loses, but those loses are going to occur in Latin communities,” said Rafael Pineda, 21, of Fontana, who missed work in order to attend the march. “A Starbucks in Rancho Cucamonga isn’t going to be affected.”
The march also provided the visual impact of the huge number of people who oppose the Federal bill.
“It’s more the perception of the potential that I think frightens people,” Loera said, “but when individuals feel that they can be the target of a boycott there is a different feel than just seeing a mass of people.”
The Congressional bill, H.R. 4437 began to attract attention in December when it was passed by the Congress. The bill would make it a crime to provide undocumented immigrants with numerous social services.
Also, the bill would authorize the construction of a wall that would extend for miles along the U.S.- Mexico border.
Demonstrations against the bill have began shortly after the House approved it, with one of the biggest on March 26 when almost half a million people marched from Olympic Boulevard and Broadway to Los Angeles City Hall.
“From my perspective I was able to have papers, that’s the only thing that separates us,” Loera said, “it doesn’t make me any smarter than them.”
The Monday march was accompanied by a call to boycott urging people to miss school, work, and to avoid buying anything.
“It’s a very important transformation that is occurring,” Loera said. “We are really waking up and caring about our brothers and sisters, we are really recognizing we need to have our voices heard.”
Laura Bucio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.