May Day Immigration Rally Draws Thousands (and Opponents) in Houston
Some three thousand people joined together in Houston on Sunday to take part in May Day rallies held all across the nation as the battle over immigration laws has taken center stage.
Photos by Christopher Patronella, Jr.
Demonstrators blanketed the streets around Burnett Bayland Park as they flowed together in a united sea of workers, students and immigrants, legal and illegal, merging chants for workers' rights and immigration reform.
"We are the DREAMers, the mighty mighty DREAMers, fighting for justice and an education," chanted demonstrators led by the Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle (FIEL) organization in Houston. "Up, Up with education, down, down with deportation!"
FIEL fights for the rights of families to stay together and for the DREAM Act, FIEL member Thailandia Alaffita told Hair Balls.
"This is something that we've been doing every year since 2006, after H.R. 4437 first came about," Alaffita said. "When the largest number of Hispanics first came out and mass mobilized as a means of showing the community, and the country, that we're here and we're here to stay."
H.R. 4437, or the Illegal Immigration Control Act, would have criminalized undocumented immigrants. After it was passed in the House, the bill was halted in the Senate following the nationwide protests in 2006 which gained the attention of Congress and of the nation.
"I'm a DREAMer so I'm here to support the DREAM Act," Alaffita said, who is also a student at Texas A&M. "I'm graduating in the next two weeks and I'm not going to be able to work. I'm a teacher but I can't work, and like me, there are thousands of students in the same position."
The DREAMers are advocates of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would allow for undocumented students who graduate from college and those who are in the military legal and permanent residence in the U.S. to work and begin their path towards citizenship.
Alaffita, 23, has been in the United States for 14 years, attending middle school, high school and college in the state of Texas.
"We worry about getting deported everyday, but it doesn't stop us from living our lives, Alaffita said. "We're Americans, we want to fulfill all of the American dreams and all of the American values -- that's why we're going to school and why we're graduating, and now we just want to work and to contribute."
Houston United, a local community activism group, led the organization of the rally.