August 29, 2008

Commentary:

The Other Denver: Hispanics Haunted by Specter of Deportation

By Carmen Alarcón
El Diario/La Prensa

DENVER, Colo. — While members of the Democratic Party are gathered in the Pepsi Center to support Senator Barack Obama as the party’s nominee in the presidential campaign, Mexicans working just seven miles away, on Federal Boulevard, are living a very different reality.

Luis Carlos Ruiz, owner of the auto shop Transmissions Ruiz, says that even though he is leaning toward Obama because of his position on immigration, Denver’s immigrant community has been greatly affected by local ordinances that attack the undocumented.

“Now, if you’re driving without a license, they’ll take your car and you have no way of getting it back without papers,” says Ruiz.

Sergio Carvajal has lived in Denver for 10 years. He likes the city but says the community has felt the effects of the convention and the large police presence.

“People are intimidated. We’re not used to seeing so many police on the street,” says Carvajal, “especially now with the problem of undocumented and driver’s licenses.”

On Aug. 12 Denver county passed an ordinance that allows authorities to confiscate a car if the driver doesn’t have a driver’s license, or if authorities suspect that he or she is undocumented.

David Broadwell, an attorney for the city of Denver, says the policy to tow a car if the driver doesn’t have a license is an old ordinance. What’s new is the clause that allows authorities to confiscate the car based on the suspicion that the driver is in the country illegally.

“This is a law in Denver. However, it’s under legal review to figure out how to implement it. We have not given the city permission to implement it,” says Broadwell.

Until yesterday (Wed.), the immigration issue hadn’t even been mentioned at the Democratic National Convention, even though in the six counties surrounding Denver (Boulder, Broomfield, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson), there are 561,801 Hispanics. This represents 21 percent of the population of the Denver metropolitan area, according to a study conducted by Corona Research for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

For residents and workers along the 30 blocks of Federal Boulevard, driving to the convention is simply not an option.

“Imagine, they only approved this (ordinance) a month ago, and now with all the police, we can’t even go downtown,” says a flea market vendor who spoke on condition of anonymity. But she says she likes Obama because she sees in him hope for her own immigration situation.

Translated by Elena Shore

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