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|7/29 Richmond-Dispatch: Conference at UR on immigrant solidarity
Released 01 August 2007  By MARGARET MATRAY, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
Conference at UR on immigrant solidarity
Parents whose son died in Iraq attend, criticize military recruitment
Sunday, Jul 29, 2007
By MARGARET MATRAY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Carlos Arredondo's son, Alexander Scott Arredondo, was 14 the first time he was approached by a military recruiter.
Alex joined the Marines when he was 17.
And he died in Iraq in 2004 when he was 20.
Arredondo travels the country to tell his story and warn parents about what he says are methods recruiters use to enlist young people and "seduce the immigrants."
Arredondo and his wife, Melida, were among a group of about 75 immigrant, labor and human-rights activists that gathered yesterday at the University of Richmond as part of a three-day conference hosted by the National Immigrant Solidarity Network.
The grass-roots conference was meant to create an open dialogue about immigration issues and link different activist groups to form a unified movement, said Lee Siu Hin, coordinator for the network, to the crowd inside the university's law school building.
The Arredondos, who are from Roslindale, Mass., said they believe certain military recruiting campaigns target young immigrants and Latino families. Recruiters appeal to the audience by saying that enlisting can help immigrants reach the "American dream," Melida Arredondo said.
She said she remembers finding gifts -- CDs, knapsacks, cigarettes and lighters -- in her son's room when she was tidying up one day before he was deployed. Alex also was given $10,000 as a sign-up bonus when he enlisted.
"I'm speaking out as much as I can," Carlos Arredondo said. Arredondo wore his son's dogtags around his neck and a black T-shirt that read: "No nos quedaremos callados -- We will not be silent." Arredondo received national attention after his son's death when he doused a government van with gasoline, climbed inside and set it on fire.
The speeches and meetings yesterday were peaceful. Hin said he was told by UR police officers that demonstrators might show up to protest the conference, but the hallways of the law school were quiet throughout the day.
In the late morning, activists and Virginia activist organizations met to talk about a state-wide solidarity movement. The activists discussed possibly starting a Dreams Across America Tour specific to Virginia. Dreams Across America sends immigrants throughout the U.S. to tell their stories and help dispel myths about immigration.
Cristina Rebeil, an attorney with Virginia Poverty Law Center, said putting a face on the immigrant population is vital.
"We need to work cross-culturally. Nothing is going to change until we share our stories," she said. "We need to come together and tell people who we all are."
Richmond resident Ben Ragsdale attended the conference because he was "appalled at the way we're treating the immigrant issue." Ragsdale was an activist in the civil-rights and anti-war movements more than 40 years ago, and said he thinks people are trying to "demonize" immigrants today.
"I'm glad to see some diverse groups come together," he said. "We need to be much more immigrant-friendly."
Contact Margaret Matray at (804) 649-6495 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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