When Yana Jacinto came to this country as a 5-year-old, she came illegally with her parents.
Now, the dental assistant is an American citizen. She wants her U.S.-born teenage children to understand what being an immigrant means for them and for the country.
“It’s important to know where we came from,” the east-side resident said.
Jacinto brought her mom, Marta, and her two children to Garfield Park on Thursday afternoon to march in support of a “Day Without Immigrants,” a nationwide protest in which immigrants planned to stay home from work and school to demonstrate to the nation how vital they are to the U.S. economy.
“We want them to hear our voice; we’re all united,” Jacinto said. “It’s not enough, but it’s so important for them to know that we are hard working. We’re all good people. We’re just here to show that.”
More than 250 people, many families with young children, met at the south-side park to begin a 3.5-mile trek to the Indiana Statehouse, chanting “Si! Se puede!” (“Yes! We can!”) at times, holding signs and responding to horns honking from passing cars.
One woman held a sign that read: “We don’t run America, but we make America run.” Another said: “Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic.” Children held signs, too: “I’m a human being” and “Immigrants make America great.”
“We thought it would be important to have a march to show that we will no longer tolerate the criminalization and the dehumanization of our community,” said Guadalupe Pimentel, a legal assistant with the law firm Muñoz Legal and one of the local march’s organizers. “This is a peaceful march. We’re the sleeping giant. It is a nation built by immigrants. You might not see us, but we’re here.”
Across the nation thousands of protesters took part in similar events, USA TODAY reported, galvanized in opposition to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration. Among the White House actions rankling protesters are plans to build a border wall, install a temporary immigration ban on nationals from certain Muslim-majority nations, boost patrol agents to curb illegal immigration and strip federal funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration agents.
Pimentel said the Indianapolis march was created by a few individuals and organizations, but no one took the lead over another. She hoped passers-by would see the number of people marching and realize the effect the immigrant community has on Indianapolis.
“We like to show off our Hoosier hospitality, and sometimes our legislation doesn’t show that,” she said.
Shawn Smith, an equipment operator on the east side, felt the absence of immigrants Thursday. About 1 p.m., he parked in an empty parking lot at Mexican grocery store Carniceria Guanajuato. A sign written in Spanish on the door notified customers that the store would be closed to observe the protest and encouraged immigrants to do the same.
Smith goes to the restaurant inside the store at least twice a week to get a burrito for lunch.
He said he understands the message of the marchers.
“I salute them, and I understand their cause and their stand,” he said. “They’re going to make a big impact.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. labor force in 2015 included 26.3 million foreign-born persons, nearly 17 percent of the total workforce.
Seventeen-year-old Roxana Juarez’s parents dropped her off at the march with two of her friends and planned to meet her later at the Statehouse. Juarez’s mom works in a factory, and her dad is a cook at a nearby Mexican restaurant. The two supported her decision to stay home from school, she said.
“I just want to stand up for immigrants, to show that we do make an impact and to show what it would be like if we we weren’t here,” she said. “It will start to show people that we matter. This is just the beginning.”
Juarez was far from the only teenager at the event. Her peers are so interested in protesting, she said, because of how much immigration policies directly affect them.
“It’s our future,” she said. “We care about it.”
Marco Garcia, another high school student, also marched with friends.
“I’m here to protest with the rest of the Hispanic community,” the 17-year-old Northwest High School student said. “And to stand for our rights with the rights that we have. We have our right to speak.”
Source: Indy Star