(WYOMING TRIBUNE EAGLE PHOTO/Blaine McCartney)
CHEYENNE — Ty Hernandez is a graduate of Cheyenne’s East High, a Laramie County Community College business degree holder and an aspiring entrepreneur.
As a food lover, the 22-year-old hopes to some day own and operate a Mexican food restaurant. He is also one of roughly 700 “Dreamers” living in Wyoming today.
His mother traveled from Mexico when Hernandez was 4 months old and married his father, a Tennessean.
“I was raised American,” he said. “I grew up on the same playgrounds, I went to the same schools, but when people realized I was part of DACA, some of my friends treated me like I was a criminal all of a sudden.”
Hernandez marched with at least 50 other faith-based and community action groups during a Good Friday demonstration in support of immigrant justice on Friday.
Activists expressed the need for nationwide immigration reform and a path to citizenship for DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, recipients. DACA is a program introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama to prevent the deportation of immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
“On this day 2,000 years ago, Jesus carried a heavy cross, just as immigrants carry their heavy burdens, with persistence and faith,” said the Rev. Rodger McDaniel, pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church. “Along with the crosses of poverty and marginalization, immigrants carry the crosses of fear.”
The event began in front of the Cheyenne offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from which participants marched behind three wooden crosses along Carey Avenue. With assistance from the Cheyenne Police Department, they marched to the offices of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
In September, Pres. Donald Trump announced plans to rescind DACA, but gave lawmakers six months to draft a legislative solution that would extend legal protections to Dreamers. These efforts have fallen flat so far.
Many also voiced opposition to the proposed ICE detention center in Evanston, located in southwest Wyoming.
The Utah-based Management and Training Corporation proposed the center in 2017. It would house approximately 600 detainees for the Salt Lake City ICE office. Officials see the proposal as an opportunity to bring much-needed jobs and tax revenue to Uinta County.
“When I see the anger directed toward immigrants, the suspicion and fear of refugees and lies directed toward even legal immigrants ... I pray for kindness and compassion for fellow human beings,” said Mohamed Salih of the Southeast Wyoming Islamic Center.
Sabrina King, Wyoming policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union, brought attention to a recent policy change that eases restrictions on detaining pregnant women. Under the new policy, pregnant immigrants would not receive special care.
“This follows in the footsteps of ripping mothers away from their children and tearing children apart,” King said. “There is nothing humane about immigration prisons or detaining people who are simply trying to live their lives.”
The rally ended in a shared communion among those who celebrate Good Friday.