Friday demonstration on immigration aims to unite, not divide | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Friday demonstration on immigration aims to unite, not divide

Amanda Fehd

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Alfredo Solorio, far left, a South Tahoe High junior, makes a point during a discussion Wednesday of the proposed immigration laws.

A group of Latino teenagers described by their school counselor as avid students hope to send a unifying message Friday with a parent-approved demonstration near the “Y” in support of immigrants.

“We want to get people on our side, not against us,” said Ernesto Medina, a junior at South Tahoe High School who has become a leader of sorts for the Latino students.

Students from the high school and South Tahoe Middle School school marched in South Lake Tahoe on Monday to protest proposed immigration policies being taken up in Congress.

Some of the students, who carried Mexican flags, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that the proposed immigration policies were racist. One such bill in Congress, which later died, would have classified illegal immigrants as felons.

This time, a new group of students plan to wave American flags at their demonstration.

“We want people to know we have respect for this country as well,” said Karla Orozco, who is studying accounting and business in the high school’s regional occupation program.

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Medina was disappointed in the message sent by 30 to 40 students in Monday’s protest.

He said the debate on immigration is not about racism, and not about which country you are originally from, but about all immigrants and how to find solutions for the immigration system.

“It’s about finding a solution, and we still don’t have an answer to that,” Medina said. “Putting people in jail, I don’t think that’s right, because most people who are here are here to better themselves.”

He appealed to people to open their minds and their hearts, to not judge and to have a genuine discussion about the issue.

Young immigrants have come out in force throughout the country because of their special situation: a minor cannot apply for citizenship. Their parents, who are often illegal, must apply for them and are often too intimidated to do so.

“In essence these children are without a country, not Mexican, not American,” said counselor Aaron Barnett.

“Especially for kids like us: we were brought here, we didn’t have a choice. Our parents risked their lives, at least give us a chance to become a citizen,” Medina said.

Barnett said the high school is in no way endorsing or sanctioning Friday’s demonstration. But if parents give permission for the children to leave school, the school must comply.

The week’s protests by students coincide with U.S. Senate debate on a measure to determine the future of millions of immigrants now living in the United States illegally.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday removed language that would make it a felony to be in the United States without legal papers. On Tuesday, it approved a guest worker program for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. The entire Senate has yet to vote on the bill.

Medina and about 15 other bright-eyed students who met with a Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Wednesday were fluent in English, articulate, intelligent and, in many cases, illegal.

The students acknowledged there are problems with the immigration system, but insisted that most illegals do pay taxes and their medical bills, and are only here to work.

“We haven’t done anything wrong, we just want to work and have a good future like anyone who has a dream in America,” said Alfredo Solorio, a junior and goalie for the high school’s Nevada State champion soccer team this year.

Key points from Latino students at South Tahoe High School:

— People who have been here for more than five years, who have paid

taxes, and have not broken the law, should be able to become citizens.

— Illegals do pay taxes: Even if you are here illegally, taxes are deducted from your paycheck. Latinos also pay taxes every time they buy something.

— If someone has a criminal record, they should be deported.

— For everyone’s safety, borders need to be secure.

— Immigrants respect America, and honor its flag.

— The protests were not about racism. The community in South Shore is generally not racist.

— There are some people taking advantage of the system, but it’s not

only illegal immigrants, and it could be too hard to stop all cheaters.

— If you take the fear out of the system, illegals would be more willing to apply for citizenship.

— Right now, it takes more than seven years and many thousands of dollars to become a citizen. The process could be made easier.

— Come up with a way to keep track of people better, such as fingerprints, and allow people to come and go legally.

— A guest worker program could be a good idea.

— There should not be a limit on who can immigrate here.

— Find a way to keep families together and allow them to visit back and forth.