With signs that read “No human is illegal” and “Jesus was a refugee,” some 200 people took to the streets for the Immigrants March Modesto on Saturday afternoon.
The event was organized to support local immigrants and protest the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. The permitted march started at Cesar Chavez Park and then made its way down the middle of G and 10th streets as Modesto police officers assisted by halting traffic. The protesters chanted “No ban, no wall!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” as well as other slogans in Spanish and English.
For some in the march this was their first protest, like Modesto mother of three Maria Garcia.
“All of our relatives are immigrants and they are here and they work the crops and fields from sun up to sun down,” Garcia said. “In reality, what would America do without the immigrants? America without immigrants is not America.”
She brought her three children and four nephews to the march and each had made their own signs. Garcia’s read “If we leave we’re taking Taco Tuesday with us (better think twice America).” The children’s signs varied from “Deport Trump” to “This is not OK.”
The march ended at Tenth Street Plaza where a rally was held featuring speeches from the march organizers, immigrant rights group representatives and government officials. Local residents also shared their own personal immigration stories. Pitman High School junior Estela Arreola, 17, took the microphone to tearfully recount how her father could not visit his mother in Mexico before she died, for fear of not being able to return.
“I don’t want to live with the fear of coming home every day. What if my parents don’t come back,” she said. “And I know that’s not just my family’s fear.”
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has garnered headlines for its aggressive enforcement and increased deportations. Immigration-related arrests have shot up 33 percent in the first months of Trump’s presidency, according to new data released by ICE.
Melissa Santos from Mi Familia Vota, a national immigrant and Latino advocacy group, brought Red Cards to hand out to the crowd. The cards, created nationally by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, include information on immigrant rights and what do if confronted by an ICE officer.
Event organizer Juan Vazquez, who was also one of the organizers of the March for Science last month in Modesto, said he was pleased with the turnout and the message the event sent to the community.
“I’m proud to be Mexican; I’m proud to be American,” he said. “This is our country and we ain’t going anywhere.”