Dallas

Thousands take to Dallas streets to stand up for immigrants

Emiliano Reyes, 11, left, and his brother (dressed as a mariachi) Angel Reyes, 13, both of Dallas, cheer while listening to political leaders speak Sunday during the Mega March rally for immigration rights in downtown Dallas.
Emiliano Reyes, 11, left, and his brother (dressed as a mariachi) Angel Reyes, 13, both of Dallas, cheer while listening to political leaders speak Sunday during the Mega March rally for immigration rights in downtown Dallas. Special to The Dallas Morning News

In one hand, Noor Hassan held a small sign that read “Peace.”

In the other, she held the hand of her 4-year-old, Sarah.

The mother and daughter were among the thousands who marched through the streets of downtown Dallas on Sunday to support immigrants’ rights and refugees.

“Someday, I want my daughter to know that we fought for our brothers and sisters and families,” said Hassan, whose parents are Turkish immigrants. “We have to make our voices heard.”

Dallas’ Mega March drew an estimated 3,200 protesters, who walked from the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe across downtown to City Hall Plaza, where a band performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Protesters waved American flags and held signs that read, “Rise Up,” “No Ban! No Wall!” and “Immigrants Make America Great.”

Families pushed strollers and wheelchairs. Friends linked arms and posed for selfies. Chants of “USA” “Si Se Puede” and “This is what America looks like” reverberated.

Veronica Mata, a student at the University of North Texas in Denton, decided to attend the rally for a simple reason: to stand up for herself and her family.

Mata, who was born in Mexico, moved to the United States when she was 5 years old.

Today, she is a Dreamer, the term often given to young people who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy created by President Barack Obama. The program temporarily shields some young immigrants from deportation and allows them to work or study legally.

Immigration activists have worried that President Donald Trump will end DACA and deport thousands of young people.

“We are a country of immigrants,” Mata said. “The majority of immigrants are here to work hard and give their families better lives. That is what this country is about.”

Since the election, Mata has often felt stunned watching the news. But attending Sunday’s rally gave her strength.

“In a lot of ways, this election has made me even more proud of who I am and my heritage,” she said. “I am proud to be an immigrant.”

Trump’s executive orders — from halting the entry of refugees and limiting immigration from some Muslim-majority countries to moving ahead with a plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — have prompted worries among Muslims and Mexicans, activists say.

Those executive orders pushed Alex Montalvo of Fort Worth to join the march Sunday. Stories of deportations and families being separated have haunted him, he said.

“We are fighting for all families,” he said. “Separating families hurts our local communities.”

Montalvo said he has long voted in elections, but Trump’s winning the presidency made him realize he needed to do more.

“We need to be engaged every day. We need to be paying attention every day,” he said. “Just voting is not good enough. Marching is just the beginning.”

Anita Quinones, a teacher at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth, said she is marching for her students who cannot. Many of her students, who come from around the world, are fearful of being deported or losing family members, she said.

“We see immigrants as numbers and statistics,” Quinones said. “But I see immigrants as people and families looking for better lives.”

Hassan, with her 4-year-old daughter, said marching gave her the fuel needed to call and write her senators and representatives and stay active in politics, even when she wanted to disengage.

“We would all like to think that if we had been alive at other times, we would have risen to the challenge and stood for the right causes,” she said. “Well, the time is now.”

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