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Utah rallies for immigrant rights

By Gregory Lucero |
January 30, 2011
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Immigrant rights protest, Utah State Capitol, January 24, 2011
Immigrant rights protest, Utah State Capitol, January 24, 2011 (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Salt Lake City, UT - The United for Social Justice Coalition rallied at the State Capitol building here, on the evening of Jan. 24. Immigrant rights activists are fighting back against proposed bills that will further criminalize undocumented immigrants. 250 people braved the cold weather to show their support for the undocumented immigrants on the first day of the Utah legislative session. The crowd chanted slogans such as, “No human is illegal!” “Fund education not deportation!” and “They say ICE attack, we say fight back!”

Many leaders spoke out. Students from Cottonwood High School told heart-breaking stories of fellow students who had no chance for higher education despite their hard work and excellent grades. Two United for Social Justice leaders, speaking in Spanish, encouraged the protesters to organize events in their communities.

Mark Alverez, a local lawyer, spoke in both English and Spanish pointing out the unconstitutionality of the state immigration laws saying, “Utah doesn't need one voice, but a thousand voices. Don't let Utah become Arizona.” The keynote speaker, Dr. Rev. Michael Minch spoke: “All people should be welcomed by Christians regardless of their nation of origin.” This dovetailed with the unveiling of a giant billboard stating, “God doesn't discriminate - why should Utah?”

The Revolutionary Students Union (RSU) took an active role in organizing the event and distributed “Know your rights” pamphlets and information helpful to immigrants. The RSU also promoted pamphlets on international solidarity and against U.S. war and occupation. Josh West, speaking for the RSU said, “The nations who have had their governments overturned and their land stolen by the U.S. have every right to determine their own destiny. These nations include the Native Americans, the Hawaiians, the Puerto Ricans and yes, the Chicanos and Mexicanos currently living in the territory occupied by the United States. They have the right to govern themselves. They have the right to control their natural resources. They have the right to speak their own language!” He then led the crowd in a chant, “All nations should be free!”

The rally was a step in the struggle for immigrant and workers’ rights. Scores of energized activists signed up to help organize and participate in follow up actions. The protest drew a diverse crowd of people, from many walks of life. Finally, it put on notice those politicians in the Utah legislature seeking to criminalize undocumented people.