The Immigrant Rights Movement: A Year in Retrospect
Last spring, in response to punitive legislation proposed in Congress and
increased repression of immigrant workers, millions of predominantly
working-class Latina/o immigrants took to the streets across the United
States. Support and organization was broad: the Catholic Church, local
hometown associations, unions and worker centers, and local Latina/o media
played major roles in mobilizing for the actions. Immigrants from other
countries have turned out to march in various cities.
The result: the largest series of demonstrations in U.S. history and, in
many areas, what amounted to one-day strikes. In Los Angeles, the garment
and port trucking industries were nearly paralyzed. In the Midwest, the
meatpacking industry was shut down. In New York, over 10,000 businesses
closed (mostly small delis and ethnic businesses). Investment bankers on
Wall Street were heard saying "let them [Mexicans] in so that we can get
some coffee." Many employers responded by firing or disciplining workers;
others supported workers' efforts and a new immigration reform policy.
The movement sparked a lively debate in the media about immigration, with
politicians scrambling to pass an immigration reform bill. The bi-partisan
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed the Senate a short two
months after the bill that sparked the wave of street demonstrations - Jim
Sensenbrenner's HR 4437 - passed the House. The Senate bill created
substantial debate and division in segments of the immigrant rights
movement. Many immigrant workers, religious organizations, unions, and
politicians supported the bill. The movement's left wing opposed it.
Among its most controversial elements, the Senate bill included a divisive,
3-tier path to legalization (which many undocumented immigrants could not
utilize), an expanded guest worker program, instant verification (an
extension of the Social Security "No Match" Program), and increased border
enforcement (see resources below for a more detailed analysis). Ultimately
the Senate bill failed to pass the House and the hope of comprehensive
immigration reform was essentially "off the table."
The Border Fence Bill, passed by Congress last year, further militarizes the
border and creates an even more repressive and coercive environment for
On the ground, last year's immigrant rights demonstrations have provoked
unprecedented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, the new INS) raids.
According to an ICE spokesperson, there have been over 18,000 arrests so
far, mostly people in their homes. These raids have targeted workers in the
meatpacking industry, construction, cleaning services, and especially those
firms where workers are fighting for their rights or organizing unions.
The left wing of the movement responded to these repressive tactics by
holding a strategizing conference in August 2006 in Chicago, and organizing
marches for Labor Day of that year. At the August meeting the 10 points of
Immediate unconditional legalization for all undocumented currently in the
No mass deportations
No arbitrary, mass or indefinite detentions
No employer sanctions
No guest-worker programs
Full labor rights, civil rights, and civil liberties
No militarization of the border
No border wall
No criminalization of workers
Increase of family reunification visas
Currently the various local and national immigrant rights networks are
organizing for days of Action around May 1, 2007. These actions and this
movement - like the civil rights struggles in the "long decade" of the
1960s - are key to breaking down racial and economic barriers in the U.S.
and forging bigger struggles for social justice.
Help build this movement! Join us in the streets on May 1st! More
Immigration Resources <http://www.solidarity-us.org/immigrationresources
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