When Fresno schoolteacher Juan Rubio saw the photo of a Salvadoran father and his 2-year-old daughter who drowned trying to cross the Río Grande in search of asylum in the United States, he immediately saw a disconnect between the U.S. and its value of children.
“For a country that lobbies much for children, it sent a message that they are not welcome here,” said Rubio, who joined a collection of other educators, elected officials and children who took part in the second annual March of Justice on a very warm Saturday morning.
The Salvadorans go through a process to gain asylum, said Rubio. However, that has been made more difficult under the Trump administration, he added.
“This is a country that has a positive attitude about youth and children, but this is very far from reality,” added Rubio, speaking at Lozano Park following the 8-mile march that began at Firebaugh High School.
Rubio and other participants wanted to bring attention to the plight of people like Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and Valeria (the drowned Salvadorans in the photo), DACA recipients, political under-representation and other issues.
“It has been another year of ICE sweeps and the separation of families, with children in cages and dying,” said organizer Stan Santos in a Facebook posting. “Meanwhile, families living along the Valley’s west side suffer from bad water and air, high unemployment, insufficient housing and the lack of other basic services and infrastructure.”
The march, which started at about 7:30 a.m., coincided with the annual Joaquín Murrieta Horse Pilgrimage, which started 41 years ago to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers without running water and electricity in Cantúa Creek.
Not much has changed, according to Santos.
“The per capita income hovers around one-third of the rest of California. Homes in San Joaquín have no potable water,” he said.
In addition, students in Huron are bussed to Coalinga, which results on hours “lost in transit instead of having a school close to their homes.” Children in Tranquility, he said, walks miles to gain access to high speed internet.
“Why are our children always last?”
Espi Sandoval, the second-ever Latino to be elected to the Kerman City Council, had his reasons for taking part in the march. Latinos make up 80 percent of Kerman’s population. (Ismael Herrera was elected to the council last year last year when district elections went into effect).
“I challenge other elected officials to put themselves in a positive way,” said Sandoval. “They need to bring our community forward instead of maintaining the status quo.”
Sandoval, a school teacher, didn’t think much of the 8 miles he and others walked in just over two hours.
“We have people from Central América walking thousands of miles,” he said. “What’s 8 miles?”
Firebaugh City Councilmember Felipe Pérez wanted to focus on the importance of the upcoming census.
“If we don’t make ourselves countable, we’ll lose a lot,” said Pérez, who has attended many of the Joaquín Murrieta rides.
“In the past, the ride was for Joaquín Murrieta, but later I realized it’s more than just Joaquín Murrieta,” said Pérez. “It’s about immigrants and justice.”