Over the past few years, Greeley has become a hotbed for immigration issues in Colorado. In 2006, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Swift meatpacking plant there, arresting more than 250 people, many of whom were detained and separated from their children. And last year, local law enforcement, led by outspoken Weld County District Attorney and now-U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck, seized thousands of records from a Greeley tax preparer with an eye toward catching illegal immigrants who used stolen Social Security numbers.
Such events have left the Latino community in Greeley scared, activists say. In an effort to move beyond the fear, a local group called Al Frente de Lucha is hosting a unity march tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Greeley's Island Grove Park to, in their words, "express our continued commitment to just and humane immigration reform and universal human rights."
Organizer Ricardo Romero says it's been an "uphill battle" since the 2006 raid in Greeley, a largely rural community immigration activists say is divided between undocumented workers and those who think they shouldn't be there.
Thirty-three families remain in limbo, unable to work while they await court dates on illegal immigration charges, Romero says. For two-and-a-half years, a small group of community members has provided them with more than $100,000 in food and personal hygiene supplies.
Similarly, Romero says, 74 people still don't know the outcome of their identity-theft charges and the ensuing illegal-immigration claims. "We're just trying to show that we do have support and there are people in the community that want to unite the community instead of divide it, as it's transpired over three years," Romero says.
Romero isn't sure how many people will show up tomorrow; there could be as few as 100 or as many as 1,000, he says. He also doesn't know who will show up. Undocumented workers, he says, are frightened: "We can't really expect them to come out because if they come... there's no way we could protect them." But he expects lots of Greeley residents to be there, and his group has organized carpools for people who want to come from Denver, Aurora, Longmont and Boulder.
Other groups have announced that they'll attend as well. According to the Greeley Tribune, members of at least one anti-immigration group, Riders Against Illegal Aliens, plan to be there. Tom Tancredo has also threatened to attend.
Whatever the turnout, Romero says the march will go on. Not even the rain predicted for tomorrow will be able to stop it, he says. The march will feature a handful of speakers, including Romero, a troupe of Aztec dancers and a moment of silence in front of the courthouse. It's expected to run three hours.
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