With the chanting “show me what community looks like… this is what community looks like” and “show me what democracy looks like… this is what democracy looks like,” more than 200 community members gathered at the intersection of West Walnut Avenue and South Mooney Boulevard for a ‘Families Belong Together’ rally Saturday morning to tell President Donald J. Trump and his administration to stop separating immigrant children from their parents.
The Visalia rally, which was considered an ‘spontaneous demonstration’ to exercise freedom of speech, was one of the many Families Belong Together events held in Fresno, Merced, Washington, D.C. and numerous other cities throughout the country.
Community members met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Visalia at 9:30 a.m. for a brief program included several speakers among them was 21-year-old Diego San Luis Ortega, a College of the Sequoias student who shared his story.
San Luis, who is a DACA recipient, came to the United States when he was only 2 years old and has “lived in Visalia as long as I can remember. I’ve attended local schools, played sports and done a lot of community service.”
“However, I am undocumented. Right now I am currently a DACA recipient. I have about five months left before it is expires,” said San Luis Ortega to the crowd, adding that he did renew his DACA status and is currently waiting to hear if it got renewed or not.
Getting a little emotional, San Luis Ortega said “DACA changed my life in a way I never thought of it would changed.”
“With DACA came the possibility of me finally being able to do more community service,” he said. “Now I have the opportunity of advocating with CHIRLA. Through them I found my voice.”
San Luis Ortega asked the crowd to show who was a register voter, adding that “you guys have the power right now to go out and change. I am only a voice, I don’t have the full power, but you guys do.”
He added that “your vote matters. I am only one person but my voice does matter and I hope that what I am telling you it can encourage you guys to please go out and vote.”
The COS student told that crow that his family has a plan incase they get separated with the current administration zero tolerance policies and the crack down in immigration.
After the brief program, community drove to the designated intersection – all four corners on South Mooney and Walnut – holding signs as they smile, wave, shake their signs enthusiastically greeting traffic for approximately an hour.
With a “keep families together” sign, Mark and Gloria Araiza, both of Visalia stood on the side walk of Mooney Boulevard near one of the fast food restaurants at the corner of Walnut Avenue showing their support for immigrant families being separated at the border.
“This nation was built by immigrants, on the back of immigrants and it continues to thrive because of immigrants,” said Mark Araiza, whose wife Gloria is an immigrant from the state of Jalisco in México. “I feel it is a complete injustice for Trump to support a policy that is anti-immigrant. And worse than that is a policy that divides families, that is really destroying the fabric of our nation.”