KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Like most college seniors during this time of year, Jose Ernesto Lopez is ready to graduate. It’s been a long 4 years since he first arrived at Kalamazoo College from his home in Los Angeles. Now he’s ready to receive his diploma and makes his parents proud even though they may not be there to watch him walk across the stage.
“They are in L.A. and so they fear traveling,” said Lopez. “They have the fear of being deported. And it's unfair.”
The fear his parents live with is one of the reasons why Lopez protested Monday, he said. He was one of 300 people who gathered with Michigan United and ProKzoo at Bronson Park on May Day for the ‘Day Without Immigrants’ rally also known as Un Dia Sin Immigrantes.
“We are here to protest,” said Coral Cervantes, a senior as well at Kalamazoo College. “We are here to fight back because of all the unjust policies that are in place right now in the administration.”
Policies that take away immigrants rights as workers in the private and public sectors, she said. Cervantes is a part of the La Cosecha Movement, an organization created to protect the rights and dignity of 11 million undocumented workers.
“I want people to know that they are families, they are children, they are students, they are people in positions of what we would call authority that are affected by this on the daily,” said the 23-year-old student activist from the San Fernando Valley in California. “It’s really important to emphasize that immigrant rights are human rights.
Cervantes said Monday’s rallies, which are taking place nationwide, actually started 10 years ago when immigrant farmers demanded better pay and shorter hours. Millions of people marched in the streets about their situation. Years later, it’s turned into a fight to get the general public to see them as human beings.
“We are human,” said Cervantes with a smile. “Immigrants are humans and immigrant rights are human rights.”
Lopez said the effort to sanction immigrants has sometimes turned violent, especially when families are physically torn a part. With constant talk of the wall going up on the Texas-Mexico border and the ICE detainments happening at airports across the country, many immigrants live in fear. He said they go into hiding for fear of being deported.
“Some of my other friends have families that have been deported, have been detained,” said Lopez. “It’s a very scary and very violent process of being detained and not knowing the whereabouts of loved ones.”
Lopez said he feels the fear that others are experiencing. It’s impacted him so much he won’t allow his parents to risk their livelihood by traveling to his graduation. He, like others, hope that the rallies will help people to see immigrants as their equals.
“They should engage in politics whether it be marches, strikes, boycotts, social movements,” said Lopez as his advice to the general public. “Together with social movements we can influence public opinion.”