On Swift raid anniversary, immigrants hold vigil for reform

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SALT LAKE CITY — Undocumented and legal Latinos gathered with a diverse crowd Wednesday night in Salt Lake to send a message to Washington: They want change in U.S. immigration laws.

"This is a human issue and ... these are families that are being separated," said Itza Hernandez. "We need some kind of change to the broken immigration system."

Hernandez, a member of the Salt Lake Dream Team, is an undocumented immigrant who has lived in Utah since she was 4 years old. She and others who spoke at the vigil hoped that lawmakers in Washington and neighbors at home were listening.

The vigil, sponsored by the Salt Lake Dream Team, was held on the sixth anniversary of the Swift Meatpacking Company raid that deported dozens of undocumented immigrants.

People gathered to plead with President Barack Obama and Congress for immigration reform.

"I have a family. He's my family, and I don't want to lose him," a man named A. Cervantes said, pointing to someone in the crowd. "Please, we need immigration reform now."

We're not going to forget (the Swift raid), and this is something that deeply affects us and our families and our communities, and we need change now.

–Itza Hernandez, Salt Lake Dream Team

The 2006 Swift raid impacted more than 100 families in Hyrum, Utah. Hernandez said she wants politicians to know that the people still remember the pain it caused them.

"We're not going to forget, and this is something that deeply affects us and our families and our communities, and we need change now," she said.

During the Swift raid, ICE agents targeted undocumented immigrants suspected of identity theft. They jailed around 150 people in Utah.

"Some of these families have to go without a parent, without a mom or a father to provide for them," Hernandez said.

She is undocumented immigrant herself, and potential deportation is always part or her reality.

"I would appreciate it if something was done so that I don't have to live in fear anymore," she said.

That's why the Salt Lake Dream Team plans to push President Obama to fulfill his promise of pushing DREAM Act legislation into law.

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"We are going to hold him accountable now for the promises he made — and he's made the same promise now that he's going to fix the system," Hernandez said.

Raymi Gutierrez, also a member of the Salt Lake Dream Team, was born in the United States, but she knows how it feels to have family members threatened with deportation. In 2008 several members of her family were under threat of deportation.

She and others who attended the vigil remain optimistic that immigration reform won't be forced to the back burner again.

Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced the Achieve Act as an alternative to the DREAM Act. Like the DREAM Act, it would allow illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. But it does not offer a pathway to citizenship, so the group does not support it.


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Jed Boal and Mike Anderson


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