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Student group protesting candidate visit

A disagreement has arisen among two groups at Eastern New Mexico University as to whether gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez should have been invited to speak as a role model for Hispanic people.

Hispanic Heritage Month activities organizers invited Martinez to speak as a role model to encourage students, but a Hispanic advocacy group says her stance against illegal immigration makes her an unsuitable example.

Martinez, a Republican, is scheduled to speak about her life as Dona Ana County district attorney and as a wife and mother Monday at the Campus Union Building, at the invitation of Hispanic Affairs.

Citing her stance against illegal immigrants, the Hispanic advocacy student group Association to Help Our Race Advance has planned a protest of Martinez being cast as a role model.

AHORA faculty sponsor Geni Flores said the students would display signs, wear caps and gowns and show a slogan that read “Don’t take away our dreams” at the CUB.

“The students are the ones that feel very strongly about this and came to me for help as their faculty sponsor,” Flores said.

AHORA members supported the Dream Act, which allowed undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States to get a higher education as a pass for citizenship. Martinez is against any pass to citizenship for such people, Flores said.

“(AHORA members) want a fair means for immigration, and because she’s so against that, they don’t see her as an appropriate role model,” Flores continued.

She said the group dislikes Martinez’s labeling of all undocumented immigrants as criminals.

“If she were coming to speak as a gubernatorial candidate, it would be totally different,” Flores said, adding that Martinez being a role model was the problem.

Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs Diana Cordova said students in her office invited Martinez after their research revealed she was district attorney, 2008 Heart Magazine Woman of the Year due to her advocacy for children and 2010 New Mexico Bar Association Prosecutor of the Year.

“We’re just focusing on her achievements as a female Hispanic,” Cordova said.

Organizers thought Martinez’s story could encourage students to stay in school and show how to balance personal and professional life, she said.

Cordova said students weren’t aware of her political views or candidacy when they invited her earlier.

“She was brought here as a district attorney,” Cordova said. “Nothing political.”

Martinez’s campaign staff declined to comment.