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Latinos protest Kay Hagan's policy

Immigrant youth, parents and supporters came together Thursday in Durham as part of a rally and press conference to protest her views. The conference took place in front of a new billboard criticizing Hagan’s policies toward the immigrant community.

The billboard was written in Spanish and funded by Latino families in the community.

Elisa Benitez, an organizer for immigrant advocacy group North Carolina DREAM Team, said the purpose of the billboard campaign was to advise the community about Hagan’s immigration stance.

Benitez said Hagan’s actions were disappointing because she is liberal.

“Hagan is a Democrat,” Benitez said. “She is the one who is supposed to be on our side.”

The billboard includes the line “La Senadora Hagan no es amiga de los inmigrantes,” which translates to “Sen. Hagan is no friend of immigrants.” But the sign does not provide information on the viewpoint of her opponent, N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis.

Ismael Rodriguez, a Latino immigrant living in Durham, was unaware of Tillis’ stance on immigration, but knew of Hagan’s voting record.

He noted that in 2006 Hagan voted against providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the N.C. General Assembly, and in 2010 she was one of the few Democrats to vote against the DREAM Act.

“How (would you feel) without a license, without a Social Security card, without opportunities?” Rodriguez said.

The press conference attracted a diverse population, including Durham resident Davi Cheshire, who came to support a friend.

“People working just as hard as me — and who are just as smart as me — are denied the same rights as me because I was born here,” she said.

She said she was familiar with Hagan’s policies, but said she did not know Tillis’ views on immigration.

“But things need to change,” Cheshire said.

Durham resident Alma Perez said her parents immigrated to the U.S. when she was 2 years old. She said she was frustrated by the fact that after going to school, working hard and reaching her junior year of high school — when most students think about applying to college — she had to worry about affording tuition.

“I want to fight for equality. What (Hagan) is doing is not fair,” she said. “She needs to be held accountable.”

Another Durham resident, Amayrani Calvario, was similarly frustrated when she was applying to college. She wanted to go into the medical field but said her dream has been crushed because she cannot get licensed professionally in North Carolina because of her immigration status.

She said she also wanted to apply to UNC, but knew she couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition that undocumented students must pay.

“It’s not fair for President Obama to give us something and for (Hagan) to take it away,” she said.

Rodriguez said some of Hagan’s policies are positive, but they do not support the Latino community.

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“In other areas, Hagan is making good things and supports schools and teachers — but she does not support Latinos,” Rodriguez said.