Roseville bilingual child center rallies on 'Day Without Immigrants'


Staff and families from the Bilingual Child Care & Education Center located at County Road B and Lexington Avenue in Roseville rallied at Lexington Park Feb. 16 in support of "Day Without Immigrants."

As restaurants and businesses across the Twin Cities and nation closed Feb. 16 to mark a "Day Without Immigrants," a bilingual daycare center in Roseville did its part to make a statement.

Leah and Miguel Retamozo own the Bilingual Child Care & Education Center at County Road B and Lexington Avenue. They live with their three children — ages 1, 4 and 13 — in Mounds View.

Just after 10 a.m. on the Day Without Immigrants, the two led a parade of about 40 people — center staff, parents and kids — across the county road to Lexington Park to make a statement in support of immigrant peoples.

"We're very concerned about the negative rhetoric and policy of the administration," said Leah, referring to President Trump's hostile statements about immigration, his aims to build a wall on the Mexican border and his recent executive order that momentarily froze immigrant and refugee travel into the U.S from seven predominately Muslim countries. 

"It's contrary to what this country stands for."

The Retamozos opened their Spanish immersion child care center last August. It's a place full of immigrants; Miguel is originally from Peru and Leah said all but two of their native-speaking or bilingual staff are immigrants.

Businesses chose Feb. 16 as a day to close en masse to highlight immigrant people's role in the economy and everyday American life.

Leah said plans for such a day had bubbled about for some time, and when the day was finally nailed down she knew her center had to participate. "We feel immigrants are under attack, and that's not OK," she said.

The center contacted families with its plans and Leah said all were on-board, giving the go ahead for its rally and partial shutdown on Feb. 16, so staff members could participate in other pro-immigrant rallies in the Twin Cities. 

 

Opportunities
taken away

Benjamin Park carried his year-and a-half-old son, Boaz, who attends the center, along with a sign that read, "No human being is illegal!!"

Park, a Lauderdale resident, said though he was born in the U.S., his sisters were born in Korea, and he knows the sting of being perceived as a foreign, unwanted "other."

"I remember standing in the grocery store line and being told to go back home, even though I was born here," he said.

Karli Neilson, who held a sign that read, "We 'heart' our teachers," has a 9-month-old daughter who attends the center. Neilson, a St. Paul resident, works in St. Paul schools as an English as a second language teacher.

"I wouldn't have a job without immigrants and refugees," Neilson said. "They add so much to the country."

Neilson said she knows of teachers at the center whose families are in other countries, and they are waiting to be reunited. She said making signs for the rally earlier that same day was an emotional scene.

As people held their signs on the corner of Lexington and County Road B, drivers honked their horns and at least one motorist gave the group a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. Miguel Retamozo was across the park, watching kids at a nearby playground.

He said he lived in Peru with his grandmothers for years while first his father, and then his mother, worked in the U.S. in order to save enough money to move the entire family to the States.

His family came to the U.S. for the opportunities it presents, he said, and "it just feels like those opportunities are being taken away" for other people.

Miguel said he and his family became U.S. citizens long ago, adding, "We all love this country, but it's just sad to see all the things going on."

The Day Without Immigrants was an opportunity to organize and make an impact, Miguel said, to make the general public more aware of how important Latinos and other immigrants are to American society.

After all, he said, "we all come from somewhere."

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

 

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