Strength in Numbers Latinos Make History, Protest Immigration Bill
St. Clair, Stacy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer
Uriel Alfaro can't understand why people think he doesn't belong in the United States.
He pays taxes. He goes to church. He works at a DuPage County factory, receiving minimum wage for a laborious job.
The 33-year-old West Chicago man has a freedom and an earning power he never knew growing up in Mexico. He wants for nothing, except the green card that would make his U.S. residency legal.
But a proposed federal law would make him much more than an undocumented worker. It could turn him into a liability for the people who help him, including his boss and parish priest.
"It saddens me that people think I am a criminal or want to punish the people who help me," he said. "I'm not a criminal. I am a man who does a job no else wants to do."
Alfaro's dismay prompted him to help make history Friday. He and his wife, Maria, drove into Chicago to participate in an immigrants' rights rally, which is now believed to be the country's largest-ever Latino demonstration.
Authorities estimate 100,000 people - thousands of whom were bused in from the suburbs - attended the event. The rally follows a new report that estimates the illegal immigrant population has grown from 8.4 million in 2000 to nearly 12 million.
The U.S. Senate is currently considering two immigration bills, including one that would make criminals of people who help illegal immigrants. The same law also calls for erecting a fence along the Mexican border.
The proposal, which has already passed the House of Representatives, sparked Friday's rally. Protestors chanted "Si se puede!" (Yes, we can!) as they descended upon the plaza across from the Dirksen Federal Building.
"I just want to make sure we all have the same opportunities," said Streamwood resident Francisco Delgado, who skipped his manufacturing job to attend the event. "It's an issue that deserves attention."
The peaceful protest, which lasted about five hours, certainly didn't lack for attention. The rally snarled traffic throughout the Loop Friday, forcing buses to be rerouted and closing several streets.
Participants waved U.S. and Mexican flags as they held signs disparaging the bill. …