'Martin wasn't on food stamps' 

click to enlarge Jim Johnson with his "Al Qaida Gonzalez" matricula - consular. - CARA DEGETTE
  • Cara DeGette
  • Jim Johnson with his "Al Qaida Gonzalez" matricula consular.

The immigration debate was alive and kicking in the parking lot in front of the Sand Creek library on South Academy Boulevard last Saturday.

So much so, in fact, that Scott Brown booted a pile of gravel at the side of a moving car that displayed a Mexican flag. "I personally found it offensive," he explained. A guy standing nearby chimed in, calling the show of the flag an "act of war."

Brown was among 15 or so people protesting a visit from representatives of the Mexican Consulate in Denver, who issued 50 passports and 300 matricula consulars, which are Mexican identification cards, to Mexican nationals. Undocumented immigrants certainly were among them.

Yes, the immigration issue is complex. Yes, we should be engaging in serious discussion about that, and about better security along our borders all of them, not just the southern one.

You can't do that by pulling up in your car and yelling, "We were here first!" as a young Hispanic man did Saturday. Or by screaming back, "My people were here first!" as one of the protesters did.

It makes Jim Johnson "so mad" when people suggest he is a racist. "There is only one race, the human race, and anyone who believes otherwise is a racist," he said.

Yet this same Jim Johnson held an oversized fake Mexican matricula consular card with a picture of a guy identified as "Al Qaida Gonzalez," "originally" from Guadalajara, and now "living" on "911 Forgotten Street" in Los Angeles. If you're really just protesting illegal immigration, why imply that Mexicans are terrorists? Why not slap an image of Osama bin Laden on a Canadian ID card? After all, the northern border is twice as long as the southern border along Mexico.

Why say that Mexicans "breed" like crazy, or prevent the rest of us from accessing hospital services, or all receive food stamps? Each of these insulting assertions was made Saturday morning.

Inside the library, Richard Goode said he got so mad when he heard of the consulate's visit that he and three others jumped in his car and drove down from Douglas County.

"The last time I checked, libraries were tax-paid facilities," he said. "The noise level is quite high it has largely been rendered useless."

I wasn't sure if Goode and I were in the same building. There was a long line of people waiting while their cards were processed, but plenty of other customers were browsing for books or sitting around, placidly reading.

Goode and his wife told the story about Martin, a delightful man from Australia who used to trim trees for them and their neighbors. He was paying taxes, providing a needed service and then the Immigration and Naturalization Service caught up with him and deported him back to Australia.

"The INS [now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] focuses on individuals like that, when we have an entire southern border where people are just walking over," said Goode.

"Martin," he added, "wasn't on food stamps."

Such insinuations Martin good, those people bad weren't lost on Joe Garcia, president of Pikes Peak Community College. "They are deliberately trying to dehumanize a whole group of people."

James Tucker, publisher of the African-American Voice newspaper, got in the protesters' faces, angrily noting that "all people in this country are from some other country."

Tucker was incensed when Amanda McNabb, a 16-year-old from Thornton who said she is helping to organize a group called "Colorado Minuteyouth," claimed that she and her 12-year-old brother "can't get jobs at McDonald's."

"They're messing with my future," she said.

"Prove it!" Tucker thundered. "Prove it!"

Juan Roberto Gonzalez, deputy general of the Mexican Consulate in Denver, said the matricula consular identity cards have been issued for 134 years. Police officers use them to identify people, and some banks accept them as ID from people requesting to open accounts. Many Americans may not like it, but the consul said he has a duty to register Mexican nationals.

"We do not encourage Mexicans to come in illegally, but there is a reality: We have the responsibility to provide them with identification."

The last thing that Gonzalez intended was to create a confrontation.

"The people from the library, and from the city of Colorado Springs, have been very friendly," he said. "This is the third time in the last two years we have used this library, and the first time there has been protest. In the future, we'll have it in a private place."

Among all the sound and fury, Gonzalez remained polite and dignified. There is an explanation.

"The diplomat should be the last person to fight, " he said, "because when that happens, there is war, no?"



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