PITTSBURG — Approximately 300 people gathered for the one mile-long Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals march and rally on Friday, which began at the Pittsburg Farmers Market Pavilion and ended at the Miners Memorial at Immigrant Park.
Signs which said phrases like “I stand with ‘Dreamers,’” “I support DACA,” “Dreamers are not criminals,” and “#heretostay and #pittsupport” were raised and American flags were waved in the air and wrapped around shoulders.
Local musicians came to sing “This Land is Your Land” and play the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
As the group walked down Broadway, passers-by honked their horns and the participants waved and smiled back. The line of marchers went on for several blocks.
No one openly stated they opposed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals during the march.
One local business owner and staff on Broadway stood outside and waved and clapped as the DACA supporters walked by.
“We were just standing here visiting and we saw the people come down from this side of the street.” Celebrations by Lori Store Owner Lori Horton said. “I do not agree with the decision to change the program, I think it is a good program and needs to stay in place and it stands for what America is supposed to stand for.
“These are all great citizens of our town that I have done business with and I’m proud to say I know many of them. I think it is great that they can have their voices heard.”
Also joining the march were nuns from Lady of Lourdes.
“We are very excited for this, to support the ‘Dreamers.’” Sister Sylvia Dominguez said. “They need support for this, so we are here.”
State Representative Monica Murnan, (D-Pittsburg), also marched along, she said she met many of the families at the Family Resource Center throughout the years.
“Unfortunately immigration is at the federal level, but I am here to support these kids because I knew many, many of them when they were in preschool at the center and I respect them and their families and everything they have done to get their kids to a great community like Pittsburg and I hope we will realize, as a nation, these kids have a lot to offer,” she said.
Pittsburg State University student Jessica Lewis came to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“Immigration, that’s American — period,” she said.
Carthage, Missouri resident Yoselyn Garza, came with her daughter to show support for DACA beneficiaries.
“I come from an immigrant family and I am lucky enough to be born in the States, but I have noticed, personally, what my parents have gone through and my siblings as well,” she said. “I’m a first born generation in the U.S., my daughter is second, we’ve seen the struggles for not only for DACA recipients, but for any undocumented people trying to get in with legal status.
“It is very complicated, they paid hundreds of dollars every year. I’m glad we are here today to represent.”
Pittsburg Resident Nicole Foster said she has been following immigration issues for the past 14 years and when she first started in education, she was told by immigration advocates that children were “hands off” when talking to lawmakers and these children are now being affected by that.
“Kids were off limits when it came to immigration rights, so a lot of the enforcements were mainly geared towards adults,” she said. “Now the children becoming adults and are now becoming affected.
“I’m here to support children and their families, I think DACA is very simple. It support individuals who are in limbo who came over to this country and have no control over their parents decisions as they came as minors.”
The entire group of marchers filed around the ring in the Miners Memorial at Immigrant Park.
The speakers held back tears — and some fell from their cheeks — as they shared their stories. Some of the speakers were DACA beneficiaries and others were people who have friends and family that are.
The speakers were Cynthia Hernandez, Janeth Canales, Diana Canales, Noel Garcia, Mitzi Pena, Astrid Reyes, Jessica Corado, who spoke for her cousin Ana Leyva, and Ximena Ibarra.
Event Organizer Cynthia Hernandez introduced the speakers and started with facts about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Hernandez said she has lived in Pittsburg since second grade and graduated from Pittsburg High School in 2014. She said her parents liked the town, because of the college, and because it is small and safe.
She said although she may not be able to go to a university, she is glad she is here and has her license and permit to work, but now she said she is worried what will happen when her work permit expires and she can no longer provide for her family.
“I’m just happy to be here and not live in fear, I was thankful to have my driver's license and a good job,” she said. “I have been working since I was 16 years old and this is only possible through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA and now I’m worried.”
Hernandez shared the living conditions she could have lived in as a child if her parents had not come to the United States.
“I was brought here in search of the American Dream — in search of a better future and living conditions,” she said. “I have been blessed with amazing parents, not only hard working but they are the bravest people I know,” she said and then paused to hold back her tears. “They left everything behind for me.
“They left behind people, the language and the country they knew. They left behind family they never got to see again,” she paused to hold back her tears once more, this time the crowed cheered her on.
“They lost parents, grandparents and other family they never had the opportunity to see one last time — all of this for me ... they didn’t think twice to give their child the life they never had.
“A life where you never had never worry if you were going to eat that day or not, I never had to worry about walking around with no shoes and I never had to worry about trying to sleep while it was raining because the ceiling above me was leaking.
“They had to live through that and they never wanted me to have to.”
Pittsburg High School student Ximena Ibarra shared her thoughts and research about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She said people must let the community know that DACA is paramount and to tell congressmen and women, senators and President Donald Trump that they will not stand aside and they will defend DACA.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions said by keeping DACA, we would be putting our great nation at risk of crime and terrorism, however, this is not statistically correct,” Ibarra said. “According to an article by the Washington Post, only a quarter of a percentage of DACA recipients have ever been accused of a crime and if they are accused of a crime their permission to stay in the United States can be easily revoked.
“As an American I am not intimidated by the idea of these people getting these job, because in reality they are not taking anything from me, they are making the country great.
“Sessions said DACA recipients burden taxpayers, however the reality is that first generation immigrants will pay more taxes in their lifetime than they receive in benefits.
“According to the National Academy of Science they do not hurt the taxpayers, they deserve to stay here under DACA.”
Pittsburg resident Jessica Corado spoke for her cousin Ana Leyva who could not make it to the event. Leyva said in the speech she wrote for Corado to share, that “dreamers” are more than just dreamers — they are achievers.
“DACA opened up a lot of doors for us,” Leyva’s speech read. “It has allowed us to achieve many things.
“We will not stand by and watch our rights be crushed like dreams, we are human too and deserve to be treated as such.
“My name is Ana Leyva and I am not a ‘dreamer’ — I am an achiever.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.