Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010 | 9:41 p.m.
Standing above a crowd of protestors outside the Lloyd George Federal Building, 18-year-old Claudia Anaya was mid-sentence when she suddenly began to cry.
For a moment, the crowd that had previously been shouting through bullhorns and eliciting honks from passing motorists fell silent.
Gathering herself, Anaya brought the bullhorn speaker to her mouth and finished her sentence.
“This hurts so much inside. I’ve been fighting so hard for this,” she said. “We need this now. Don’t let people stay home. We need to fill this whole street up with everybody.”
Anaya was one of the 50 students and activists who marched from the Las Vegas Academy to the federal building Tuesday to voice their frustration toward Republican politicians who refused debate on the DREAM Act and the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military.
The DREAM Act would offer citizenship for illegal immigrants who entered the country as children and enroll in college or enlist in the military. The act, as well as a proposed repeal to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military, were amendments to the military spending bill that was shot down Tuesday by Republicans.
Anaya, who was born in Mexico and came to America as a child, was directly impacted by Tuesday’s vote against the defense bill. She had hopes of attending UNLV on scholarship but now won’t be able to.
“We finally had something. We could have done something about it, but it was just shut down,” she said. “My heart sinks. I told my mom I thought this would go through; we were doing so much.”
Michael Flores, an activist with the Las Vegas-based Progress NowNevada, Vincenta Montoya, an immigration attorney, and Isaac Barron, a high school teacher, organized the rally. They had originally planned to use the demonstration as a public demand for the passage of the DREAM Act.
But after news of the Senate’s derailing of the bill and its included amendments, the rally took on a new shape: Thanking those who helped the cause and demanding that the DREAM Act not become a standalone bill.
“If the DREAM act is a standalone bill, it dies. It’s not going anywhere,” Montoya said.
Flores said he was “disheartened” after watching the Senate action on C-SPAN. He said his hope for the passage of the bill began to dissipate after Sen. John McCain spoke out against the included amendments.
“I knew we were in trouble,” Flores said.
Montoya voiced her disapproval of Senate Republicans while commending Sen. Harry Reid for trying to pass the DREAM Act.
“He literally was putting his career on the line,” she said. “Election day is coming soon, and we are not going to forget who helped us and who did not help us.”
At about 4:15 p.m., the crowd proceeded up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, between Bridger and Clark avenues, with homemade signs and an American flag . The demonstrators shouted, “Together. United. We’ll never be divided” and “Ensign. Escuchas. Estamos en la lucha,” roughly translating to, “Ensign. Listen. We’re in the fight.”
Sen. John Ensign was one of the senators who voted against passage of the defense bill.
Near the end of the rally, Flores, Montoya and others spoke, encouraging the crowd to call their senators and demand that action be taken on the DREAM Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
A Spanish teacher from the West Career and Technical Academy, Elizabeth Campbell, said many of her students would benefit from passage of the DREAM Act.
“When you think about kids who have been here five years or more, they don’t have a life to go back to anywhere else,” Campbell said. “We’ve already invested thousands of dollars in these kids’ education; let them work. Let them pay back. They’re American.”