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Immigrants rally locally for reform

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

As chants of "Si, Se Puede" rang out across the country in support of immigration reform, a handful of Hispanic voices in Crescent City were muffled by the late afternoon downpour.

The rainfall, however, did not dampen the spirits of the few people who stood along Front Street with signs proclaiming support for their cause.

"We're here and we're hoping for a just immigration reform law," the event's organizer, Hilda Yepes Contreras, said.

"Right now there's so many injustices happening in the country," she said, referring to the recent raids, which fragment families and deport illegal immigrants back to their homelands.

"I think that as Americans we shouldn't put up with that," said Yepes Contreras, who, in addition to being a clinic manager at Del Norte Community Health Center, also teaches English as a second language. "We should do something about it because our family is the core of our country."

Last year, tens of thousands of immigrants across the country rallied together in hopes of persuading lawmakers to push through legislation that would help provide citizenship to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. Many protesters even staged an economic boycott, by skipping work and refusing to buy goods, in hopes that their presence could be felt nationwide.

But as opposed to 2006, many of the protests in 2007 are much smaller in size, including Crescent City's, which garnered about 75 people last year.

One of the reasons behind the shortage of marchers and protesters throughout the country and Crescent City, besides the rain, is fear, Yepes Contreras said.

"When we started talking about this, a lot of them said that they were afraid," she said of potential marchers, including one of her English as a second language students.

"Many people here scared," Norma Pea said. "I am scared now."

Pena, who speaks in broken English, is a housekeeper and artist in Crescent City who moved here eight years ago from Mexico City. She said that immigrants were worried that they would be persecuted, whether illegal or not, for coming out to protest.

"The Latin people not is bad person," Pea said. "The Latin people have help American people."

Luis Calderon said he is one of those people who helps. He's worked in a ply-wood mill in Brookings for the past 16 years, and currently resides in Crescent City. He said it is the immigrant who works whom he supports.

"We're looking for some legalization of those that are (working)," Calderon said of the many illegal immigrants who are already working in the U.S.

"There's probably people thinking we aren't gonna do something, but we're always here," he said, while he and his plastic covered placard were being pelted by the rain.

"We know it's gonna happen," Calderon added. "Few peoples gonna be here, but it's gonna happen."

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