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Demonstrators gather in Willmar: Group holds May Day rally for immigration reform

A rally for immigration reform took place Thursday morning in front of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s office in Willmar. Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf

WILLMAR — More than 80 adults and children came to Willmar on Thursday seeking immigration reform on International Worker’s Day.

The group arrived on a bus and stopped at U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s office in downtown Willmar. They visited with Peterson’s office staff and rallied in front of the office before boarding the bus for a trip to the Twin Cities.

They were seeking immigration reform and an end to deportations that separate families.

Other stops in their day were at the offices of U.S. Rep. Eric Paulsen and U.S. Rep. John Kline before attending a rally at the Hennepin County Government Center. The Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, Spanish for Human Rights Assembly, organized the tour.

People from the group crowded into a conference room at Peterson’s storefront office while others gathered on the sidewalk in front of the office. The crowd included a couple dozen small children.

The goal of the bus tour around the state was to call attention to the urgent need for immigration reform, Sister Anna Reha said.

May 1 is also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of working people, she said. She represents the New Ulm Diocese in outreach to Latinos.

“These are people’s lives; they can’t wait any longer,” Reha said.

The group carried large handmade signs saying “Don’t Tear Families Apart; No More Deportation” and “Citizenship for All.” Several people carried U.S. flags; others carried crosses.

A group of young people walked in downtown Willmar with a huge sign they had made to resemble the Stars and Stripes. Instead of stars, children’s handprints were spread across a field of blue. The stripes were made of words painted in red. Most were in English, a few in Spanish.

Peterson staffer Tom Meium said it was the largest group he had ever hosted at the office.

The group had asked for Peterson’s support in passing immigration reform legislation and called for an end to deportations.

Peterson wants to see a comprehensive immigration reform law passed soon, Meium said. Such a package has passed in the U.S. Senate, but it’s stalled in the House.

“The (House) leadership seems to be leaning toward bringing it up in a piecemeal fashion,” he said.

Peterson might support that approach “if that’s the only way to get it through,” Meium said, but it wouldn’t be his preference.

It’s likely to take some time before a solution can be found, he added. “If it were easy, it would have been solved by now.”

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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