Andrew Jung needed a translator to get his message across to those who only understood Spanish, but the teenager's story of how he lost his parents to an immigration nightmare resonated with many in the large crowd yesterday at Golden Rule Park in South Toledo.
The youth, a 15-year-old freshman at Emmanuel Baptist High School, was one of several people leading the call against U.S. House Resolution 4437, which would classify those whom marchers referred to as "undocumented workers" and those who assist them as felons.
The youth spoke at a rally following the Farm Labor Organizing Committee's annual march, which took on special meaning this year because of large rallies nationwide voicing opposition to the federal immigration legislation. The bill stalled in the Senate after efforts to reach a compromise during an election year failed.
Several hundred people - many of them college and high school students - waved a sea of American and Mexican flags, signs, and banners yesterday in Toledo in support of amnesty for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the United States who are considered "illegal aliens" under current immigration law. Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of FLOC, drew comparisons between recent rallies against the immigration bill around the country and the 1960s civil rights movement.
The Jung youth told the crowd how his parents were deported to South Korea on Aug. 11, 2005. He was born in America, where his parents had lived since 1984 while Mr. Jung was attending the University of Toledo.
During a lengthy speech to the audience, he held up a copy of a form indicating the U.S. Justice Department granted a request in 2000 from the Kotobuki restaurant, 5577 Monroe St., to hire his father as a sushi chef under immigration rules covering alien workers.
"I would like to ask the United States Justice Department: If my father [was] allowed to work for the Kotobuki on Monroe Street, where did they expect his family to live?" the youth said to the cheers of the crowd.
His mother was jailed for several months before the couple was deported, leaving the boy in the care of guardians. "Today we tell our elected officials: Please do not allow this to become law," he said. "My parents were never a security threat to this nation. They spent $15,000 obtaining legal advice from several attorneys with no avail."
Another area attorney, David Leopold, continues to battle with federal immigration officials on behalf of Manuel Bartsch, a German native and a student at Pandora-Gilboa High School.
The youth was jailed over Christmas, after he attempted to get paperwork to take a college entrance exam and it was discovered he had overstayed a tourist's visa.
His step-grandfather had never filed paperwork to obtain legal status for him to remain in the United States.
Mr. Leopold, who still does not know the ultimate fate of his client, said Americans should be thanking undocumented workers for the labor and economic support they provide in this country.
"They ought to be saying, 'Thank you,' " Mr. Leopold told the cheering crowd. "They should say thank you for coming here, thank you for believing in this country, thank you for making this country great, thank you for working in the fields and the factories. They ought to be thanking you and everyone else who have done [marches and rallies], because what you're doing is reminding us that America is a democracy - not a police state."
Mr. Velasquez said the stories of young Jung and Mr. Bartsch demonstrate that the immigration issue reaches beyond the Latino community, which has been in the forefront of the marches. Their stories also show how the law has been used to break families apart without efforts for more humane solutions, he said.
The FLOC leader told the audience that efforts are under way to stage a nationwide protest day on May 1, where supporters of immigrant rights would be asked not to purchase anything to demonstrate their opposition to proposed legislation toughening federal immigration rules. The proposed nationwide protest is designed to show the economic power of those who support amnesty and changes in immigration laws.
Students from Toledo-area high schools and colleges made up a large portion of those attending yesterday's march.
Sipsem Maldonado, 22, who was with a group of students from Bluffton College in northeastern Allen County, said he was moved by the number of people willing to stand up for their beliefs.
Noemi Zapata, 21, a student at Owens Community College, attended the march with her 14-year-old brother, Andy, a Gibsonburg High School student. She said she was there to support migrant workers and other immigrants, whom she felt may be punished or put under more intense federal scrutiny under proposed changes in immigration law.
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