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Homeland Security chief's appearance at Pomona College commencement draws immigration protesters

May 16, 2010 |  1:14 pm
Scores of immigration activists descended on Pomona College on Sunday to protest the policies of commencement speaker Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Arizona's controversial anti-illegal immigration law.  

According to organizers of the protest, Napolitano wants to expand immigration policies that were implemented by the Bush administration, among them the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287(g) Program and Secure Communities.

The 287(g) Program allows local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Under the Secure Communities, law enforcement officials can cross-check the arrestee's fingerprints with the federal immigration database during the booking process.
Demonstrators claim the policies allow law enforcement agencies to arrest people on a pre-textual basis and violate due process rights.

As Napolitano spoke to the graduating class, the demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Andrew Carnegie building, chanting "Si, se puede!" (Yes, we can) and "Obama escucha, estamos en la lucha" (Obama, listen, we're in the struggle). The protesters were also waving signs that read "Alto AZ" (Stop Arizona) and "No mas racista" (No more racism).

Across the street, about a dozen silent counter-protesters stood holding American flags and held up signs that called for support of Arizona.

Those attending the commencement ceremony shook their heads. "Why are they doing that?" one woman said.

Minutes after Napolitano spoke, the demonstrators continued to Shelton Park, where guest speakers were scheduled to talk.

"I'm pretty sure she heard our message," said Eddie Gonzalez, a representative with the Day Labor Congress for the Inland Empire. "We denounce any discriminatory law."

-- Ruben Vives