Respeto, Honor, Labor, Justicia â€“ protesters carried signs in Spanish and English alongside Mexican and American flags on a May Day march that supported immigrants in Whatcom County.
On May 1, several hundred people marched to the Whatcom County Courthouse from Cornwall Park. The march included and supported members of the county's largely unacknowledged farm-worker and immigrant communities and called for a stop to the recent Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids that have instilled fear in immigrant communities. Entire families are detained, without due process, in privately run detention centers across the United States.
May 1 commemorated the first anniversary of the historic, “day without an immigrant” job walkouts and following marches. The walkouts demonstrated the contributions that immigrants make to the U.S. economy. The marches were led largely by Latino communities in response to HR4437, the anti-immigrant legislation that would tighten U.S. borders. Last year, immigrants in communities across the country mobilized for some of the largest marches this nation has ever seen, the biggest being in Los Angeles with an estimated 600,000 to 1 million participants.
Community to Community Development, a farm-worker solidarity group, organized the May 1. Similar marches occurred in cities across the state and the country. Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas and City Council-member Terry Bornemann gave speeches honoring the contributions made by immigrants to the community and the economy.
“Today is a way of celebrating that our society is made up of many, many different backgrounds,” said Douglas.
Rosalinda Guillen, director of Community to Community Development, estimated 500 or 600 people participated this year. Last year, over 1000 people marched, which was among the largest demonstrations in the history of Whatcom County.
Guillen said that in spite of recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, she was happy so many people were still courageous enough to march. She said a lot of immigrants have left the area over the past year.
“There have been a lot of the I.C.E. raids and the Minutemen being around,” said Guillen. “That has an impact on people.”
Guillen said she hopes the march's non-immigrant participants will continue to show support for immigrants in the community and advocate just immigration reform in the United States.
Cecily Hazelrigg-Hernandez, who teaches the Hispano/Hispana American Experience class at Western and is becoming an immigration lawyer, said it was important for her to be present and support her community.
“I have the privilege of having been born here, and never having to worry about my status, never having to justify my presence in this country, and same goes for my daughters,” she said. “For that reason, it was imperative that I participate and use that privilege in the hope of bringing awareness and equity and justice to the other members of my community that weren't born here.”
Hazelrigg-Hernandez said the presence of the Minutemen Civilian Defense Core, and discriminating comments in the community, deter people without proper documentation from marching.
“It's our obligation as members of the Latino community in Whatcom County to step in and voice [immigrants'] issues,” she said.
Social artist Stephany Hazelrigg carried a bullhorn during the march and led chants. She said it was important to recognize the services immigrants provide.
“[Immigrants are] taking out our trash and picking our food and washing our laundry and giving us clean clothing and places to sleep and rest our heads and taking care of our children and taking care of our homes,” said Hazelrigg.
Hazelrigg said the economy would stop without those services.
“The people who are giving us food everyday are struggling to eat safe, healthy food themselves,” said Hazelrigg, “and [struggling to] be treated with the respect and dignity that we assume is our own privilege.”
Two members of the Minutemen followed the march in a pickup truck. Claud Lebus, leader of the Minutemen's Washington chapter, took photographs of the march participants. Lebus, an immigrant himself, is a Canadian and American citizen and member of the First Nations.
“We're here just like anyone else to watch the parade and celebrate the day,” said Lebus. “That was it. We're not here to cause any problems. We live in this country.”
The Minutemen are a civilian militia who patrol the northern and southern borders to watch for people crossing illegally. Lebus said he didn't think the people marching were dangerous, but thought they were avoiding the legal channels available to immigrants.
“I believe in this country and in the laws of this country, and this country is the land of freedom, and the reason it is the land of freedom is because we have the laws, and without the laws we'd have chaos and we'd have anarchy,” said Lebus.