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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Ventura County Star: Oxnard They walked 10 miles and were willing to walk more.

Ventura County Star: Oxnard
They walked 10 miles and were willing to walk more.

About 100 farmworkers and their supporters ended a two-day protest of immigration raids at La Plazita Park in Oxnard on Friday evening with the announcement of a third march in La Colonia set for 5 p.m. today.

The group of men, women and children entered the park nearly an hour after their scheduled arrival time of 5 p.m. A few sat next to a tree. The rest remained standing, chanting, clapping, asking for more.

"Are you tired?" asked a group leader with a bullhorn.

"No!" was the resounding response.

Stephanie Silva, 12, of Oxnard and her cousin, Lyanne Silva, 13, were.

Both doubted whether they'd finish the 10-mile trek from Saticoy to Oxnard on Friday. They continued on, they said, because of the farmworkers.

"I did it for them, for the people," said Stephanie.

The march, along with others conducted simultaneously throughout the state, was organized in response to immigration raids in Riverside and San Bernardino counties that have resulted in 420 arrests.

Ventura County residents have heard of similar raids in the county, but Border Patrol and Immigration officials said there are no records of any raids in the county, contrary to the rumors.

Farmworkers also marched to promote Senate Bill 1645. The so-called AgJobs Bill would give undocumented farmworkers who have worked at least 100 days before the legislation is passed the chance to qualify for temporary residency. They could eventually be eligible for permanent residency if they continued working in agriculture.

"They are so strong and willing here, they want to do it again," said Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. "Thanks to their hard work, we will succeed."

Rodriguez, who also participated in the march, called the protest a triumph.

Since the marches began taking place, the raids have stopped, Rodriguez said. "That's all thanks to you and your hard work."

Guillermo Licea agrees.

The 44-year-old Oxnard farmworker who has worked the fields for 17 years said the two days of marching wasn't exhausting.

"We're used to that because of our work. We're out in the sun a lot," he said.

"In the end, we'd still do it for the farmworkers and for those who work in hotels, restaurants, construction and factories."

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