PORTLAND – It was a scene that the rally’s organizers say underscored the importance of the issues underlying federal immigration reform and a new Arizona law that they contend will lead to racial profiling.

Two groups of demonstrators — one starting in Kennedy Park and the other at Union Station Plaza — marched along Congress Street in Portland on Saturday before converging at Congress Square.

An estimated 500 demonstrators watched as state Sen. Justin Alfond presented a letter signed by 27 state lawmakers opposing Arizona’s law, which requires police to investigate anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” of being an undocumented immigrant.

Members of Portland’s immigrant community told stories, including one about a Maine high school senior who must work so his mother in Guatemala can have money to treat her heart disease. The boy faces deportation and may no longer be able to help her.

“To us, the turnout speaks to the fact that this issue is the most important thing in these immigrants’ lives,” said Ben Chin, who helped organize the rally on behalf of the Maine Peoples Alliance.

Chin said dozens of immigration rallies were held across the United States on Saturday.

Brianna TwoFoot, field director for the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said the campaign for immigration reform will intensify next month with a hearing in Portland.

“Arizona’s law is legally unsound and encourages racial profiling,” TwoFoot said in a prepared statement.

“Racial profiling betrays the most basic American value and belief that all people, regardless of their skin color, should be protected equally by the law.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com