A day after President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech placed a priority on reforming federal immigration policy, representatives of several local organizations gathered in downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday to voice their support for undocumented immigrants’ rights.
Local advocates spoke and shared personal stories at a news conference hosted by the nonprofit Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) at City Hall.
“We’re here to say, ‘It is time to act,’” said Anabel Merino, community organizer for CAUSE in Santa Barbara, opening up the demonstration. “There is no way around it.”
CAUSE was started in 2001 to improve social, economic and environmental justice by being the communicator between state legislators and the people.
Some of the tasks it has taken on are pushing for wage increases, improving workers’ policies, reaching out to low-wage immigrants, holding budget forums on state finances, and cleanups due to severe weather conditions and natural disasters.
The organization also has branches in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
The 30-minute presentation, held next to De la Guerra Plaza for a small audience, was divided into six principles, for which at least one advocate shared his or her personal connection to deportation or undocumented people in the United States.
The principles included uphold family unity, providing a just process to secure legal residency and ultimately citizenship, respecting human and civil rights, providing economic opportunity to the region while upholding worker rights, addressing root causes of immigration for long-term solutions and comprehensive immigration reform, and recognizing immigrants’ full humanity and contributions
Marvin Giron, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant, moved to the United States from Mexico City 23 years ago, and is the only one left out of his family — mother, three brothers, uncles, nephews and nieces — who is not in the country legally. Unable financially to pay for an education, he took a job in the distribution industry in Los Angeles.
“Constantly seeing how I was being oppressed, seeing the opportunities I was missing,” Giron said. “I was depressed, angry.”
“I’m pretty much tired of not being able to succeed,” he said. “I’m not here to take another person’s job, but I’m here to compete for that job.”
The Rev. Arthur Stevens of Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara said he got interested and looked into what happens to the detainees.
“One person was imprisoned because he parked his car 19 inches outside of the curb instead of 18,” he said, giving an example of one of his findings.
“I’ve heard enough of stories of suffering,” said Nayra Pacheco from UCSB’s IDEAS, who’s being contacted daily by undocumented students and their relatives.
Other guest speakers were Olivia Uribe from LatiDems; Daniel Elenes, from Just Communities; Yesenia De Casaus, representing Santa Barbara Democrats; and Ken Hough, executive director of Santa Barbara County Action Network.