The group of 50 immigration rights supporters rapidly swelled to 400 Monday as they marched through Clovis.
Many were wearing white as a sign of peace as they chanted “Si Se pueda,” which translates to “Yes, we can,” a rallying cry of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union.
The rally was one of several held across the state.
Clovis march coordinator Andrea Armendariz believes immigrants should be afforded the same rights as U.S. citizens.
“They (immigrants) are not terrorists,” said Armendariz, a U.S. citizen. “They deserve to have a good future, too.”
Maria E. Medina hoisted a white, poster board sign which read, “together we can make a difference,” as she marched. A second-generation American, the Clovis resident is proud of her Mexican heritage.
“They (Mexicans) are hard-working people,” Medina said. “My grandparents were born there (Mexico).”
Passerbys honked vehicle horns in encouragement as the police-escorted throng snaked its way through downtown Clovis. Young mothers held the hands of their children and pushed babies in strollers, while others proudly waved American and Mexican flags in a town that is more than 33 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data.
A bipartisan group of senators recently announced a compromise bill which would combine border enforcement with new options for citizenship to millions of undocumented citizens already in the United States.
According to Armendariz, marchers are in support of immigrants gaining citizenship as quickly as possible.
“It shouldn’t matter how long they (illegal immigrants) have been in the U.S. … they deserve to become citizens or resident aliens,” Armendariz said. “We want amnesty for them.”
The Congressional plan would set up legalization options based on the length of time they have lived in the United States. Those who have been in the states for five years or longer could apply for citizenship.
Clovis resident Dennis Winn witnessed the rally on his way to join friends for morning coffee. The Vietnam veteran said he was offended to see several young boys holding large Mexican flags.
“This is America … not Mexico,” Winn said. “My friends names are written on the wall in our capital (Washington, D.C.) not in Mexico City.”
The ex-Marine opposes the proposed compromise bill.
“If immigrants haven’t become citizens within two years,” Winn said, “then they should go home.”
Hugo Chavarria, a Clovis High senior, proudly wore the green, red and white, Mexican flag draped cape-like around his shoulders.
“A lot of Mexicans come here (United States) to work,” Chavarria said, “and they should be able to continue to do that.”
Other Latino residents were marching against a House bill that would make entering the country illegally a felony offense, meaning undocumented aliens would be barred from future citizenship and re-entry into the country.
“We (Mexicans) aren’t criminals,” Medina said. “We just want to work.”
Armendariz said she considered the march a success. The immigrant-rights supporters plan to march again on May 1.
“I’m amazed and impressed the Latinos came together to show their unity,” Armendariz said.