Monday, November 19, 2018
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Local Activists Mobilize to Protect Immigrant Rights, Countering Trump’s Message of Hate and Fear

Excerpts of speeches by Al Dornan, immigrant rights activist, and Jose Diaz, a young undocumented Mexican immigrant, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

In the midst of a bitter midterm election campaign where President Trump and members of his Republican Party pulled out all the stops to demonize immigrants, individual and groups across the U.S. organized local actions to counter the right-wing message of hate and fear.
On Oct. 21, about 200 supporters of immigrant rights joined a 78-year-old man, Alan Dornan, on a two-mile walk around Hartford, Connecticut, to press for freedom for on Ecuadorean immigrant in sanctuary for almost a year as well as for immigrants’ rights in general. Dornan began walking a two-mile loop from his house in a nearby town last January, despite severe back problems and pain.
Several groups joined forces with him to bring out walkers from throughout Connecticut. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus was there and brings us excerpts of speeches made during the action.  We first hear from a young Mexican immigrant and DREAMer, followed by Al Dornan’s concluding remarks.

JOSE DIAZ: So, my name’s Jose Diaz, and as I was over there in the beginning thinking of what I was going to say, getting cold, as all of you are, I actually thought of the moment I was crossing the border, and I had to swim the river, and as soon as I went inside my whole body went numb, of how cold the water was. When I got to the other side, I found out that we didn’t have any change of clothes and I was going to have to walk all night in wet clothes while it was cold.

So, I got my work permit for DACA. I just renewed it, so I got it (Cheers). And I wanted to speak about this right here. (points to his T-shirt: Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic.) Because even though I have DACA, it doesn’t mean I’m safe. It doesn’t mean I have documents. That just means I’m able to be here for only two years and work. Unafraid: I have been afraid every day, and you know what makes me unafraid? My friends, my family, the people I love, all of you here today, making me not feel alone. Unapologetic: I’m not perfect, no one is. But I don’t have to give explanations for why I’m even here, because my family was looking after me. They wanted a better future for me, and if it wasn’t for them, to be honest, I’d probably be back in Mexico not having an education. I would probably have joined a gang, like some of the friends I had there and I’ve actually talked to. And some are actually dead. So comparing what I’m going through right now, and the uncertainty, I prefer this to that. But I know if I go back, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

I just want to finish with this. I really thank all of you being here because you give me strength. You give other immigrants strength. You give undocumented communities strength as well, and this isn’t over. I really wish all of you could get involved and actually make a difference, because together we can make anything happen. Thank you. (Applause)

BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Jose Diaz, a young undocumented Mexican immigrant. Al Dornan finished the walk back where the walk started, outside the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and spoke to the group about his commitment. Al Dornan finished the walk back where the group started – outside the Hartford office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE – and spoke to the group about his commitment.

ALAN DORN: But the people who come to this country today have no time to wait, because they are fleeing from dire poverty. They are fleeing from crime. They are fleeing from despotic governments – which in great measure were brought into power by the misguided foreign policy of our own government. The people today who are now walking through Mexico toward our border, where they will be denied entry into the U.S. – if necessary, with government troops. This is not right. This needs to change.

Not only am I the son of immigrants, I am a dreamer. When I was a young boy growing up in America in the 1940s and 1950s, I enjoyed the American dream. But I enjoyed the American dream only as a white, male American. When I was growing up in this imperfect country, black people were to a great extent still treated as less than human. Women were still treated as baby-makers and cooks in the kitchen. That cannot continue. This dream that I enjoyed must be for all people – all people in this world are entitled to the right to have equal opportunity to live a good and wonderful life. And I am saying to you today – please believe me – I am saying to you today that for me, this is only the beginning. (Cheers) I will walk, I will walk, I will walk until I am physically unable to walk.

A week ago, on last Sunday, a man who I would suspect as South and Central Americans know – Archbishop Oscar Romero was canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. But you and I know that he didn’t have to be canonized; he was a saint a long time ago. And I am proud that I follow the guidance of Archbishop Oscar Romero. If he could give his life for the people he loved and cared about, then why can’t I give my back and my feet in dedication for the people I care about? I love you all. Thank you for coming. I will continue. (Wild cheering)

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