“This is about a profound contrast in moral vision for what America should be.” Josh Harder
America is names, names and stories. The names—Madueno and Kolasinski, Nou and Tanaka, Harder and Hughes and Hernandez, Lakestani and Dashputre, Ricci and Costello and Talbott, Pallios and Nelson and Scribner—all have stories, and some of those stories were told at Saturday’s March for Families in downtown Modesto.
Julissa Ruiz Ramirez told the story of the bearded man who showed up her family’s house in Mexico and said, “I’m your father.” She didn’t believe him because he looked so different from the man who’d gone off to work in America so his family could have a better life, so she cried.
Leng Nou talked about the fear she had thirty-five years ago as a refugee in a strange land, “even with the comfort of my mother and the strong guidance from my father.” Virginia Madueno cited the strong influence of her mother and father as she shouted, “I am a proud American, and I am also a proud Latina!”
The names and the stories became dominant themes as hundreds of Valley citizens filled the streets of downtown Modesto to protest Donald Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy. They came to voice support for immigrant children and families but also to assert their commitment to American values of compassion and inclusion.
“This isn’t just about immigration,” said congressional candidate Josh Harder, “This is about a profound contrast in moral vision for what America should be.” Harder added that immigrants are a critical part, “of the economic and social fabric of the Central Valley,” and should know they have a place here.
Tejano music legend Johnny Hernandez carried a sign saying, “Free the Children,” and later told how he responded to Trump-supporting hecklers with shouts of, “Lock him up!” When someone said, “We need to put Trump back into his hole,” Hernandez added, “And then cover him up.”
Local immigration attorney Patrick Kolasinski told the crowd that Trump’s claims to have re-united immigrant families were based on warehousing immigrant families in facilities featuring separate cages for parents and children.
Harder and Madueno emphasized the need to vote, and Madueno was especially emphatic.
“It’s not a Democrat issue or Republican issue, it’s a moral issue,” she said. “This is supposedly a democracy, but that democracy isn’t working for us today.”
Madueno promised to be a part of an escalating Blue Wave and said she will work for change all the way into November. Like Harder, she urged people to vote for change.
Julissa Ruiz Ramirez reminded the audience that Congressman Jeff Denham has promised immigrants for years that he would help them.
Jeff Denham told me, “I’m your biggest supporter,” said Ruiz, and “then he voted against us.”
“Just imagine,” said Harder, who believes we are in a contest between a vision of fear or a vision of hope, “if everyone here got not a thousand people but just a hundred people to vote. If we all got just a hundred people, we win.”
The crowd, estimated at eight-hundred strong, cheered, and those cheers resounded across a nation where an estimated 700 demonstrations featuring thousands upon thousands of American citizens in every state raised their voices in unified support for America’s original and most venerated motto: “E Pluribus Unum.”
About The Author
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.