Ika Fifita took the day off work Wednesday to march in solidarity with Oregon State University students, staff and faculty protesting Arizona’s new immigration laws.
Originally from Tonga, Fifita carried a sign that read “Stop Targeting immigrants, sexual minorities and ethnic studies.”
“I take off just to come and do this. I want to do the right thing,” said Fifita, who works at parking services. “I want to help.”
Fifita joined more than 200 people who marched to protest Arizona laws SB 1070 and HB 2281. SB 1070 gives police the authority to ask people for their documents based on “reasonable suspicion.” Opponents insist the law encourages racial profiling. HB 2281 makes it unlawful to teach ethnic studies classes in the public school system.
Chanting slogans and carrying signs, protesters marched for 45 minutes in a loop from the Cesar Chavez Cultural Center near Gill Coliseum around campus to the Memorial Union quad.
Juliana Orellana, a freshman in liberal studies, carried a poster showing “Dora the Explorer” with a black eye behind bars for “illegal border crossing” and “resisting arrest.”
“This abuse needs to stop. This law needs to stop,” Orellana said.
In her first march with the Latino community, Rebecca Chavez, a senior in public health, wore a hand-lettered white T-shirt with “Xicana!” on the front, referring to her family’s roots in Jalisco, Mexico. On the back: “It’s illegal 4 me to be who I am.”
“Not only does it affect the Latino community, it also affects other communities as well.”
She told her parents she planned to march. “They’re really happy to see me be active.”
Loren David, a senior in natural resources, and Andi Gutierrez, a junior in ethnic studies and political science, held hands as they hoisted a protest sign over their heads.
“I want to live in an America where what we preach is what we believe,” David said. “The law itself allows for the injustices that may come from it. It allows for racial profiling. If they (police) don’t like the way you look or talk, they’re going to be able to harass you.”
Gutierrez said she’s “a bi-racial girl” and grew up “trying to toe the line between two cultures.” The daughter of an Anglo mother and a Mexican father, Gutierrez said she learned the value of protest from her mom at an early age. “She taught me to fight for what I believe.”
Alison Davis-White Eyes, coordinator of OSU’s Indian Education Office, said the issue is bigger than immigration.
“I think this has a lot to do not just with immigration; it’s also about indigenous rights,” Davis-White Eyes said. “We have to think whether we want to live in a police state or a democracy.”
Wearing a ceremonial headdress with pheasant feathers, Willan Cervantes, of Salem, led traditional Aztec dances celebrating the Earth and the ancestors.
“You offer your prayer not with your mind but with your heart,” Cervantes said. “An offering to the universe. We’ve forgotten our place in the universe. One world. One people.”
Students organized the event and several spoke to the gathered crowd.
“I myself come from hard-working immigrant parents,” said Blanca Cabrera, a senior in political science. “My parents decided to leave their home country in search of better opportunities for their children, which includes me,” she said. “Being aware of my privilege brings responsibility. I cannot be silent. I will not be silent. Being able to stand here today allows me to speak for those afraid to do so.”