DILLON - Friday night's immigration reform rally at Dillon Amphitheatre gave fresh meaning to the phrase "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
The mercury dropped to a frigid 4 degrees at Dillon Amphitheatre, but it wasn't cold enough to keep 200 local immigrants and their allies from lighting candles, waving signs, chanting a few rounds of "Si, se puede!" ("yes, we can") and calling on politicians to create a clearer path to U.S. citizenship.
Families, business owners, workers, students, church members and community leaders gathered in support of a just-
introduced bill for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The event, held in concert with similar vigils across Colorado, was the first such coordinated action for immigration reform that included participation by the state's ski communities. Rallies also took place in Telluride, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs and Avon, in addition to urban areas.
"Working in construction, food services and hotels, immigrant workers are critical in ski country and to the state economy as a whole," said Chandra Russo, an organizer for Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which helped coordinate the vigils.
For many who showed up at the amphitheatre Friday, the event was the first of its kind they had participated in.
"It feels really good, and it gives me a lot of hope," Silverthorne resident and Mexico native Alberto Chavira said.
"It's important to participate in events like this so that people in the community listen to us," added his friend and fellow Silverthorne resident Saul Serna.
The crowd heard from several speakers, including pastor Mike Phillips of Frisco's Immanuel Fellowship.
"We are very much in favor of comprehensive immigration reform," Phillips said. "God promises to bless those who reach out to strangers. We're all enriched by a diversity of countries and cultures."
Many of the speakers noted the U.S.'s long history of receiving workers from foreign shores, referencing waves of Irish, Italian, Polish and Hungarian immigration.
"Like those in the past, we might look or sound different than the general population," said Summit Cove resident Javier Gaspar. "Like those in the past, some of us are running away from adverse regimes or situations. And, like those in the past, we are here chasing a dream."
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.