SPECIAL SERIES : May Day 2006 Coverage
SF State Students Honor Immigrant Rights
The Cesar Chavez Student Center was closed down in honor of 'A Day Without Immigrants'
May 2, 2006 2:44 PM
For the first time in history, the doors to SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center were closed and locked during school hours in honor of “A Day Without Immigrants.”
The Cesar Chavez Student Governing Board was behind the closure.
“This issue is effecting the whole nation and there is a big population of immigrants, and sons and daughters of immigrants, on campus, and the government is trying to criminalize our population,” said Liliana Cortez, 21, the board’s chairperson, and a Raza junior. “Our goal is to build a connection with campus and the community outside and be proactive, not to be reactionary.”
Last December, the House of Representatives passed HR4437, which makes illegal immigration a felony. The bill is currently under debate in the U.S. Senate.
Cortez set up a table in front of the Student Information Desk, and handed out free scantrons, blue books, pencils and flyers “supporting a fair, just and humane immigrant legislation.”
To show support for the cause, students participated in class walkouts and marches.
Arturo Sernas, 21, history junior, welcomed the marchers to approach the Malcolm X Plaza stage to voice their thoughts on immigrant rights.
Students, one by one, spoke their part.
Chris Velasco said that he believes an attack on immigrants is an attack on home.
“These are hard working people coming here just to benefit their lives and we need to support them,” said Velasco, 18, undeclared freshman, to the crowd chanting, “¡Sí se Puede!” which means, “Yes we can.”
Michael Hoffman, 25, math graduate student, talked about previous immigrant strikes in Chicago that led to unions and 8-hour workdays.
“Those immigrant protesters were fired upon by police,” he said. “People were murdered for their rights and that struggle got us a union. Once again, labor laws are being chipped away. A movement must force bosses and government to take action to stop the demonization of immigrant workers.”
By 10:45 a.m., the crowd had grown to about 200 students. Some chanted, while others stood with their arms folded, like Leigh Wolf and AJ Weissmiller, both members of SF State’s College Republicans.
“It’s like everything is tolerated but intolerance,” said Weissmiller. “They say that they’re inviting everyone to express their opinion, unless it’s contrary to their present beliefs.”
Wolf, the press information officer of the College Republicans, raised his hand to speak, but was ignored by the students organizing the campus protest.
“They say they want diversity,” said Wolf. “It’s like ‘equal rights for everyone, unless you’re a Republican.’”
The crowd proceeded to march in a circle around Malcolm X Plaza chanting, “Whose school? Our school! Whose war? Their war!” The group then started making their way through campus. They sang out “No ala Migra” – “No for INS,” as they marched pass the long lines outside Café Rosso that had developed because it was one of the only places on campus to buy food.
However, Kristi Vizza, 18, a freshman business and dance double major wasn’t bothered by the longer wait time in line.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” she said. “I understand why they’re doing it, and if I get my bagel five minutes later than usual, it’s not the end of the world.”
“I just wanted a water,” said Jacey Correia, 21, a senior hospitality management major. “There are some people at a table selling water and hot dogs and stuff, so it’s not that detrimentally effective though.”
Correia was referring to the table - selling hot dogs, hamburgers, muffins, water, and coffee - that was sponsored by the Pre-Law Society on campus. They refused to comment on the situation or participate in a walkout.
After leading the march though campus, Sernas got on the Muni with a group of approximately 250 students and faculty to protest at the Civic Center.
“It’s amazing,” said Sernas, whose voice was horse from all the yelling. “There’s a lot of anger on campus and people are really becoming active. We picked up about five more people straight out of their classrooms.”
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