Immigration reform advocates march to Ann Arbor

Chanting “Education not deportation,” a dozen marchers set off from southwest Detroit’s Clark Park Thursday morning, heading to Ann Arbor, where President Barack Obama will speak at Saturday’s commencement.

Jose Franco, a 22-year-old Detroit resident, literally wore his status on his T-shirt, which was emblazoned with the word “undocumented.”

Brought by his mother to the United States from Mexico when he was 2, he has known no other country. He went to Detroit schools but says in high school he quit trying when he learned what being undocumented meant: not having the papers and social security number needed for some university applications equaled no future.

“At the time, I didn’t think I could even go to college,” he says.

But then he learned about the DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. That’s the bipartisan federal legislation that’s been introduced in Congress five times including this session. It would provide a path to citizenship for some young adults who came here undocumented — they prefer that term to the “illegal alien” label the anti-immigration lobby puts on them.

The act, which was supported by candidate Obama is stalled in committee, but calls for its passage are growing from some quarters I— including the on the group making the 50-mile hike to Ann Arbor.

They plan to complete their journey Saturday morning and demonstrate near the University of Michigan, where they’ll meet up with busloads of supporters from Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids, says Sam Nawrocki, one of the march’s organizers from pro-immigration reform group One Michigan.

Albino Gutierrez, manager of Ez La Raza Radio, WHPR-FM 88.1 and WNZK-AM 680, was walking with the group and planning to broadcast live updates.

One of the highlights Thursday morning was when poet and musician Jose Rioja read one of his poems to help send the marchers on their way: :

Mexican I Am

I breathe the same the same air

I would even give some of my own blood

If my American brother should need it

I feel the same pains, the same emotional stress

The same joys the wondrous beginnings of a new day

If my American brother falls

I would stop to pick him up

I wouldn’t ask him if he had a green card

If my American brother is hungry

I would share my food with him

For well I know what it feels to be hungry

and thirsty

My skin is darker

We also share the same planet

Could it be we are also human?

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