Manuel Mercado lends his support for immigration reform during a rally at McGee Park on Thursday.
Manuel Mercado lends his support for immigration reform during a rally at McGee Park on Thursday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — San Juan County residents joined the nationwide call for immigration reform on Thursday evening.

Nearly 50 people gathered near the east entrance to McGee Park across from a San Juan County Sheriff's substation to raise awareness of immigration reform. The activists were affiliated with Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigration reform group, and United Families for Justice, an organization affiliated with Somos.

"We are here today as a part of a statewide week of action," said Elsa Lopez, a community organizer with Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "We are joining organizations at the national level in support of (reform)."

An immigration reform bill introduced into the U.S.
Sergio Payan listen as a member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido speaks during a rally for immigration reform at McGee Park on Thursday.
Sergio Payan listen as a member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido speaks during a rally for immigration reform at McGee Park on Thursday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
Senate on April 17 has been followed by rallies and awareness events across the nation.

"There are many families here in San Juan County with mixed status," Lopez said. "The children might be citizens, but the parents may not have papers. We are here making sure that we are exercising our right to raise the issue to our local elected officials."

Sergio Herrera, a speaker at the rally, said he was arrested in 2009. Herrera said that a warrant was issued for his arrest after a court did not receive a payment he made on a ticket.

He was detained for one month, he said, because he did not have papers.

"I had to hire a lawyer," Herrera said. "I've lived in the U.S. for 12 years. I have three kids, and they're all citizens."

Caring for those children is much harder than normal, he said.

"My sons have autism and one was also born with a brain defect," Herrera said. "They need to go to a special school and get therapy."

Herrera said that he spent all of his savings fighting deportation after his arrest.

"I've always led a good, honest life," Herrera said. "I volunteer at my church. My wife and I do humanitarian work. We pay our taxes.
Immigration activists gather together to sing a song during an immigration reform rally at McGee Park on Thursday.
Immigration activists gather together to sing a song during an immigration reform rally at McGee Park on Thursday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
We are here because we want to make a better life. If immigration reform is not passed by 2015, we may have to go back to Mexico."

Somos Un Pueblo Unido has worked with law enforcement agencies in San Juan County to reform policy on immigration status, Lopez said.

"We're gathering here in front of the sheriff's office because there are a lot of issues of collaboration between the sheriff and (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)," she said.

The Farmington Police Department has revised its policy and no longer asks immigration status, Lopez said.

"The sheriff's department has complied but also issued a protocol on collaboration with (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)," she said. "That is very concerning to us. The country is moving away from this and trying to look for other solutions."

Greg Yee can be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.