August 21, 2006

Leaders of Faith Rally Riverside Township: local residents come out to oppose

Riverside Township, NJ – Yesterday afternoon, leaders of faith and members of the Latino community gathered before city hall in Riverside to rally against the anti-immigrant ordinances passed by city officials that punish businesses, property owners, and residents that aid and assist undocumented immigrants. These ordinances have created hostility and increased discrimination against local immigrants, in addition to having a negative impact of on Riverside’s business community. The rally, organized by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), is part of a plan to keep consistent pressure and the media’s eye on this small town’s actions that have divided the community and resonated across state lines.

Yesterday, more than a thousand supporters traveled to Riverside to rally and increase the pressure on the town’s officials and the residents who are shutting out the community’s immigrant residents. The mostly white residents came out to protest against the rally participants and leaders of faith in efforts to drive them out of town and drown out their voices.

“The Riverside Chief of Police said that we needed security. Because of the seriousness of the hostility and anti-immigrant sentiment demonstrated these past weeks by local Riverside residents, we knew we would need the protection of the Sheriff and other law enforcement,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“About 3,000 local residents came out to the streets of Riverside to confront us. Many brought confederate flags and demonstrated despicable behavior that included racial and obscene sneers, spitting, throwing eggs and tomatoes at peaceful leaders of faith,” said Rev. Rivera.

“I told our people that in the example of Jesus, we had to walk right through the center of this hateful crowd in defense of our people and with a message of justice,” said Rev. Rivera.

CONLAMIC’s attorney, William Sanchez, who is leading the legal battle against these ordinances in New Jersey and other states, said today in a live radio show, “It’s an honor to work with Reverend Rivera, defending this cause in Riverside. These anti-immigrant ordinances are not a local issue. Defending Riverside is going to help us in the future and on a national level. Latino’s will not be leaving the United States, we must continue to unite to stop local officials from trying to establish and implement laws illegally.”

“Undocumented people have rights in this country. We must inform our communities about the rights that anyone living in the United States have, regardless of their immigration status. The U.S. constitution protects us all, and people have a right to know, for example, that their children can indeed attend public school. We are very concerned right now for the children of immigrants who are about to start school, we intend to do everything we can to protect them,” said William Sanchez.

Mayor Charles Hilton of Riverside has publicly said that immigrants have become a burden to the Riverside public schools and other social service programs, when in reality he has no information to support these statements. He and other city officials testified in a recent open hearing that Riverside’s residents are paying a great deal of money to educate undocumented students in their schools but when asked to provide supporting documentation, had nothing to back up their statements.

“On the first day school in Riverside, we will be present to ensure that none of the children of immigrants are barred from the classroom,” said Rev. Rivera

“It’s the kids that worry us the most. We are concerned that they will face discrimination in the schools,” said William Sanchez. “U.S. laws protect all who live in this country and even many white American’s don’t understand the law well enough to know that this is true. As CONLAMIC’s legal council, I will ensure that school administrators, city officials and the media have access to information regarding the laws that protect these children.”

“In fact, city officials seem to be uninformed or just simply defiant of the federal law. We know that these city ordinances are against federal law. This is why we have federal courts, to be able to hold local officials accountable and avoid injustice, much like what is now happening in Riverside,” said Sanchez.

The residents who came out to protest against the rally of Latino pastors and the Reverend Miguel Rivera behaved in a manner that would have embarrassed and ashamed our nation’s founding fathers. “I sincerely hope that the white people who came out to the rally and treated us with such hatred and incivility are not the same people who attend their local churches that same Sunday morning,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera. “We will continue our message, our prayers and to adamantly defend the immigrant community. It’s our responsibility and the will of God.”

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) is the nation’s largest Latino Christian advocacy organization, representing 15,000 churches in 32 states across America. For more information, go to www.conlamic.org.

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