March 24, 2006

Latino residents form a human rights group

By Martha Sarabia

The situation in a North County community where very few Latinos hold decision-making positions, the relationship with the sheriff’s department is not the best after the killings of three young Latino males in the hands of deputies, and the apathy of those eligible to vote to exercise their right is immense has started to change.

This change in the city of Vista has started through the creation of a human rights committee, which had its first meeting a couple of days ago.

“The purpose of this meeting is to form a human rights committee. We need people to participate in this committee to help with the all needs of the community,” said Yesenia Balcazar, co-coordinator of the committee, to the attendees.

“We’re very excited due to the large number of community members that are here,” added Balcazar.

One of the most popular incidents brought up during the meeting was the presence of the Minuteman Project, whose members protested against day laborers asking for jobs in the streets in the corner of Escondido Ave. and N. Santa Fe about a month ago.

“They are asking the Vista city council to take action, they want sheriff deputies to act as immigration agents. However, we’ve been going to the city council meetings to present our side of the story,” said Balcazar making reference to the members of the anti-immigrant group.

The attendees mentioned that immigration is one of the most popular topics due to this year’s elections. For that reason, Balcazar explained that local community representatives went to Washington, D.C., to meet with senators and talk about this region’s topics such as immigration and lack of low-income housing as well as to express their disapproval of HR 4437.

“HR 4437 says that any undocumented person living in this country will be treated as a criminal. It’s a very strong law that would affect our families,” explained Balcazar.

The topic of education was also discussed during the meeting because the attendees believe that many Latino students are losing the opportunity to go to college due to their immigration status and financial hardships.

Community members that have recently become human rights promoters were also present in the meeting.

“We are here precisely to help community members who don’t know about their rights,” said Javier Vieira.

“We’re very happy that the community is uniting little by little. That fear that we previously had is not there anymore,” said Maria Vieira, another new promoter.

Mario Balcazar motivated the audience to become members of the group. “Support us so that we can form a committee here in Vista to practice what we have learned,” he added.

A representative of the Escondido Human Rights Committee also addressed the audience. “We’ve noticed that many people need help. During the time that we have united as a group, we have been getting many phone calls to report cases of abuse,” said Rubi Medel, who has been part of the group for about a year.

After briefly talking about the universal declaration of human rights, the attendees agreed that they need to make others respect their rights and not to stay quiet about the injustices that happen in the community. Many of them said that sometimes speaking Spanish is not allowed in schools and in work areas but they did not know that it was their right and that it should be respected.

Balcazar added, “We want this committee to be recognized in the community as a strong group that fights for the community. We want to start documenting abuses that take place. And with that evidence, demand for a change.”

That message seemed to be well received by the attendees, as most of them expressed their interest to become a part of the Vista committee.

“We’re waking up, saying ‘we are going to do something for the community,’” said Medel.

Carolina Lopez, Vista resident for more than four years, said at the end of the meeting, “When I learned about this interest to form a committee, I came and I’m motivated to participate.”

The Vista committee will work together with other local committees that belong to the Human Rights Alliance such as the one in Escondido.

The next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Mar. 29 in the Vista Public Library located at 700 Eucalyptus Ave. For more information, call (760) 758-1712 or (760) 468-4518.

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