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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Friends of illegal immigrants demonstrate their support

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fernando Mendoza waves a U.S. flag outside Rep. Paul Gillmor s office in Tiffin during a protest. Fernando Mendoza waves a U.S. flag outside Rep. Paul Gillmor s office in Tiffin during a protest.
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TIFFIN - More than 200 supporters for the rights of illegal immigrants sang and chanted yesterday in front of the old Seneca County Courthouse as Baldemar Velasquez, founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, took his fight for those rights to the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort).

The U.S. Senate continued to weigh options on how to fix America's immigration laws as millions across the country yesterday protested a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December.

That bill proposes, among other things, to make undocumented immigrants - as well as some who aid them - felons, along with building a barrier along much of the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill and compromise legislation has struggled to find support in the Senate.

Mr. Velasquez and supporters targeted Mr. Gillmor because of his support of the legislation, House Resolution 4437.

Mr. Velasquez, joined by Tiffin resident Amelia Nava and nuns from the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin, crowded the small lobby area of Mr. Gillmor's fourth-floor office in Tiffin across the street from the courthouse to deliver a letter explaining their concerns.

Mr. Gillmor, who attended a program in Tiffin earlier in the day, had left for another program in Fremont by the time the rally started. He said his schedule was set before the rally was scheduled.

Rosa Centeno of Genoa, who attended the rally, said her father came to the United States illegally, but contributed to the country while helping his family and is now a U.S. citizen. She said she supports Mr. Velasquez's efforts.

"I'm just very passionate about this because I've seen so many people here legally and illegally," said Ms. Centeno, wiping away tears. "I believe my parents created five wonderful children and we're all great Americans."

Mr. Velasquez told Mr. Gillmor's district representative, Everett Woodel, that HR 4437 would damage the cucumber industry in Sandusky and Seneca counties. Mr. Woodel said he would make sure that Mr. Gillmor received the letter.

Outside the office, Estelvina Fearing, of Tiffin, and her daughter, Selena, 10, sat across the street from the rally. Ms. Fearing, of Puerto Rican origin, said she supported the rally, but wants to make sure that all Spanish-speaking immigrants, regardless of country, have the same rights.

Marjorie Minardo, of Tiffin, pulled her car to the side of the street downtown as the marchers walked past.

She said he was upset because she believed they were asking for rights not afforded to people who work the legal channels for citizenship, like her granddaughter's husband, who is from England.

"He's been here legally for three years working and he has to go back," Ms. Minardo said. "What makes these people think that they are any better than somebody like that? If people are legally here, I understand that, but those who are illegally here shouldn't get it before my granddaughter's husband."

In Adrian, about 100 people - most of them Latino migrant workers of Mexican heritage - turned up at the old Lenawee County Courthouse for a peaceful demonstration that lasted about an hour.

They marched around the courthouse twice, chanting, "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" Some carried signs. "We love the U.S.A. We're trying to survive," read one. "Our forefathers were the first illegal immigrants," read another.

Staff writers George J. Tanber and Jim Sielicki contributed to this report.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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