Hispanic leader reacts to immigration march - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Hispanic leader reacts to immigration march

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May 1, 2006

Tifton--More than one million immigrants and their supporters skipped work and took to the streets across the country today.

Marchers hoped a "Day Without Immigrants" would send a message to the government about the need for immigrants in this country, whether they're here legally or illegally.

Several weeks ago, more than three-thousand Hispanics rallied throughout the streets of Tifton. One Hispanic church leader who helped organize the event described the rally as simply "a peaceful walk." He doesn't approve of today's boycott.

As thousands rally in favor of immigrants' rights, one predominately Hispanic church in south Georgia opposes the movement. "The church doesn't approve boycotts and all of this, like not sending the children to school or employees being absent from their jobs," says Frank Agostini with Our Divine Savior Catholic Church.

He says the nationwide rally sends the wrong message. "We believe in peaceful and silent walks, and this will damage the image of Hispanics being a little bit irresponsible, not going to work," he says.

It was business as usual at El Calzador. Worker Juan Guereca says the restaurant just wants to keep customers happy. "Most people are coming here for lunch time, and some people don't have time to cook," says Guereca.

So why aren't many Hispanic business in South Georgia participating in the walkout? Juan says many Hispanics are simply afraid.

"Some people don't do march today because some say that if they are in the march, they'll send immigration," says Guereca.

He hopes the nationwide walk out will bring about positive change for immigrants and lead to laws that make it easier for migrants to come here legally.

"It's only to give a message to the government, or to the state, the president to recognize what I do all for them," says Guereca.

Back at the church, Agostini a native of Puerto Rico, sympathizes with the nearly 12 million immigrants who come to this country illegally.

"It's true that they have come to the United States in an illegal way, right now they are here, they're having a job, they're having a salary, they're supporting this economy," he says.

He doesn't see the hot topic of immigration dying down anytime soon. "Immigrants from poor countries coming into countries that have good opportunities, or countries that offer a lot of promises that's a good hook for those looking for a better life," he says.

And it's a life many are willing to seek, no matter the costs.

Georgia now has some of the toughest immigration laws in the country. Under the law, any adults seeking many state-administered benefits must prove that they are in the country legally. The law also punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

The law also will require police to check the immigration status of people they arrest to see if they face deportation orders. Many of the new law's provisions will not take effect until 2007.

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