Dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Lexington Wednesday, waving flags and calling for immigration reform. It was unseasonably warm as one corner of Triangle Park filled with hundreds of immigration reform supporters. Speakers chanted into a public address system, urging the crowd to join them.
One of those speakers was 20 year old Shaky Palacios. She told how she about reached the breaking point when she went to work…hoping to support her parents after they could find no substantial work. Palacios says support from her friends at school helped immensely..
“All of my friends know I’m undocumented. They have never turned their back on me. In my own community, my own people turned their back on me for fear of them getting deported because I could get them in trouble for speaking out on being undocumented,” said Palacios..
In the crowd listening to Palacios was Miguel Contreras. Over two decades ago, he immigrated from the Dominican Republic. A legal citizen, Contreras doesn’t believe Congress will act anytime soon on immigration reform.
“A lot of Americans understand the situation, but the Congress, some of the Congress, not all of them, they don’t try to understand. They don’t try to listen to people. But, I think they can do that another time. They can’t seem to agree on anything, but I think it’s time to do that,” said Contreras.
The rally coincides with bipartisan efforts in the U-S Senate to reform the nation’s immigration laws. One proposal under consideration would allow the children of undocumented workers to remain permanently in the United States.
There were many flags and signs visible during the rally. One read ‘Latino Vote Counts’ and another ‘For you, were once an immigrant.’ Lexington resident Janet Tucker sees a need for ‘much broader legalization.’
“I’m for a world without borders. I think we need to work toward that as best we can,” added Tucker.
The immigration reform rally attracted some onlookers. David Middleton gazed upon the rally while leaning on a metal railing near Triangle Park. As long as undocumented workers seek employment, Middleton believes they should be allowed to stay in Kentucky.
“On the whole the immigrants come as young people who are working and that’s not a problem, that’s a good thing. If there weren’t jobs for them to fill, they would not be coming,” explained Middleton.
But, Lexington State Representative Stan Lee says such attitudes are unaffordable. The Republican lawmaker has filed legislation on the state level designed to make Kentucky less attractive to undocumented workers. Lee maintains local and state governments can’t afford to provide them with an education and social services.
“That is a big factor. Certainly it is a big cost. Now, you add on top of that education costs. You add on top of that really the loss of employment opportunities for people who are here legally. And that’s obviously a huge number,” said Lee.
So far, Lee says Kentucky’s General Assembly has chosen not to enact his proposals. And the state legislator says action in the 2014 general assembly session isn’t likely unless it’s reaction to any Congressional movement on immigration.
The Lexington Immigration Rally coincided with a national event in Washington D-C. Organizers claim the Kentucky rally was one of 70 nationally planned around the nation over the next couple days.