September 2006: National Immigrant Solidarity Network Monthly News Digest
September 2006 National Immigrant Solidarity Network Monthly Digest
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September 2006 U.S. Immigrant Alert! Newsletter
Published by National Immigrant Solidarity Network
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Immigrants United for Labor Day Weekends and Beyond!
What Is Our Next Step?
In This Issue:
1) Analysis: Immigrant Debate
2) Labor Day Immigrant Actions
3) Immigration News
4) Corporate Takeover Of Borders
5) Please Join NISN Working Groups
Debate Endgame in this Congress -- Stalemate, Solution, or Setback?
Frank Sharry Executive Director, National Immigration Forum
Aug 24, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C.--When Congress returns just after Labor Day, it only has five weeks left before recessing for the mid-term elections in November. With immigration being one of the nation's top policy issues, will some sort of immigration bill be enacted this year? If so, what kind?
The debate is so volatile it's risky to make predictions. But I like taking chances, so here are four possible scenarios, with my predictions of their likelihood, from most likely in my view, to least....
A Corporate Takeover of American Borders
Robert Koulish, Baltimore Sun
August 21, 2006
Borders are a key element of national identity. When borders are violated, the result is often crisis and war. Look no further than this summer's conflict in the Middle East, set off by a cross-border kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants. Protection and defense of borders is, for most nations, a high priority.
Thus, it is troubling to see our government intent upon passing control over its borders to private companies.
Immigration control is a fundamental exercise of sovereignty, and sovereign powers are considered almost inviolable. As a legacy of its plenary powers over immigration, Congress has enacted some of this country's most racist and arbitrary policies, which the Supreme Court has never struck down. Examples include Chinese exclusion, national origins restrictions and
expedited removals. Turning over immigration powers to private companies further endangers democracy. Immigration policy, programs and current proposals are replete with references to privatization - enforcement, detention, inspections and services - that would place the fate of potential immigrants in the hands of private mercenaries and military contractors.
Please downlaod the newsletter for the complete story URL: http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/Newsletter/Sep06.pdf
Special Report: July 28-30, 2006 Washington DC National Grassroots Immigrant Strategy Conference
A Success and Milestone for the Immigrant Rights Movement!
By: Lee Siu Hin
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Yesterday We Marched
Today We Organized
Tomorrow We'll Achieve Our Dreams and Goals!
The 3-day (July 28-30, 2006) Washington DC National Grassroots Immigrant Strategy Conference at American University has been without doubt a success and a milestone for the new chapter of the immigrant rights movement.
The conference was organized by our group, the National Immigrant Solidarity Network, one of the leading coalitions involved in the March 25 Los Angeles "Gran Marcha" and the May 1st "A Day Without Immigrants" General Strike/Boycott. Community/grassroots immigrant activists from across the country met face-to-face for the first time to discuss how to collectively build a new national, broad-based, immigrant rights/civil rights movement. Two of our priorities were: (1) Moving from this spring's marches and mobilizations towards an organized new civil/ human/immigrant rights movement; (2) Organizing nationally to implement a 6-9 months National Immigrant Strategy Plan.
Success and Challenges
Since our historical March 25th/May 1st actions this year, immigrant activists from across the country have successfully derailed the anti-immigrant bill in Congress, and May Day was celebrated in its country of origin for the first time in many years. The immigrant movement, long ignored by the traditional white-activist led anti-war and global justice movements, has shown our power and strength to become the most important activist movement in 2006.
Our organization, National Immigrant Solidarity Network, aims to be a broad-based, multiethnic movement including African American, African immigrant, Asian American, Latino/Latina, Arab-Muslim-North African, progressive labor, interfaith, LGBTQ, student, anti-war/peace and global justice groups from across the country. The following is a list of our "Ten Points of Unity" (drafted by the Los Angeles March 25th Coalition):
- No to the anti-immigrant HR4437/SB2611 bills
- No to the militarization of the border
- No to the criminalization of immigrant communities
- No to the planned immigrant crackdown across the country
- No to the guest worker program
- No to employer sanctions
- Yes to amnesty for undocumented immigrants
- Yes to immigrant family reunification
- Yes to a humane path to citizenship
- Yes to labor rights and living wages for all workers
Despite our success, we still have a long way to go to achieve our goals, and we still face serious challenges ahead. Because the movement was organized so quickly and so de-centralized, there was no central coordination or vision setting during and after the May 1st action. While labor unions across the country had supported the campaigns, according to the latest AFL-CIO survey, 60% of union members do not support the immigrant rights movement. The situation gets more complicated as we need to deal with splits in ideology (centralized vs. de-centralized), tactics (march vs. lobby), and politics (pro vs. anti-compromise bill). The right-wing anti-immigrant forces have regrouped and are planning new attacks on immigrants, by continuously linking immigrant enforcement to anti-terrorism as part of their November mid-term election agenda.
Furthermore, despite disagreements from grassroots immigrant activists, the Senate passed the bi-partisan immigration 'reform' bill (S.B. 2611) on May 25th, known as the 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006'. Its few positive provisions to help immigrants on the path to citizenship are far outweighed by the damaging impact (enforcement part of the bill) it will have. When the Senate and House bills (the H.R. 4437 bill, passed last December) meet in conference committee, the outcome, if there is any, will inevitably be worse.
The anti-immigrant forces have failed in their promise to push for President Bush's signature on the final bill by the end of the summer, because (as many believe) Congress wants to avoid going to conference committee (to finalize the bill) before the November mid-term elections, due to the political risks from the community and from activists' opposition. But others worry that: (1) the anti-immigrant forces can push the enforcement part of the bill for quick approval; and (2) they can push for quick passage of the bill immediately after the election when there will no longer be a threat of serious opposition.
Therefore, at this point it's vitally important for the immigrant rights movement to keep the momentum going, and there's an urgent need for a national meeting in which community/grassroots immigrant activists can discuss how to build a new national, broad-based, immigrant rights/civil rights movement, and can set a 6-9 month national action strategy. The movement needs to establish a framework for true solidarity among organizations nationally by recognizing our common points of unity and the value of a diversity of tactics. Such solidarity will, hopefully, resolve the conflicts that have arisen in the movement and allow us to focus on the work at hand. We Will Plan Our Work and Work Our Plan.
From the beginning of the organizing of the conference, we had been facing enormous challenges. We decided to call for the conference in early May, but without any money we needed to fundraise to rent the meeting space, invite speakers, and finalize the entire program: all within less then 2 months. We are proud to say this was truly a grassroots effort. Unlike most other large conventions, we accepted no corporate or foundation money. The entire $15,000 conference budget was basically paid for by the $45.00 registration fee and by passing the bucket and activists' in-kind support. Although we're about $2,000 - $3,000 in the red and need to keep shelling out from our own pockets, we think that it was worth it.
The 3-day conference attracted approximately 180 people from over 80 organizations across the country. In attendance were diverse groups, including: Latin@s, APIs, African Americans, African immigrants, European immigrants, LGBTQ, women, youth/students, interfaith, peace/global justice activists, white allies, labor, immigrant day laborers and community organizers from two dozen states with over 50 workshops/strategy sections.
Although many workshops advocated specific legislative goals, these proposals are missing from the current 'compromise' bill, and they believe it'll truly benefit the immigrants. For example: at the detention and deportation workshop presented by the National Immigration Project and Detention Watch Network, they explained how every year thousands of undocumented immigrants are arrested and deported back to their country without due process, creating numerous human tragedies. They advocate changing the current U.S. immigration detention system so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.
We also invited traditionally marginalized immigrant constituent groups to speak. Mkawasi Mcharo, co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, a Kenyan immigrant, spoke about her immigrant experience. She explained that African immigrants (like Asian immigrants) have very different legal needs then other immigrant communities, and the immigrant rights movement should create different strategies to support their needs. At the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus, facilitated by Queers for Economic Justice, immigrant LGBT activists expressed their feeling that the movement has traditionally neglected their needs, since they have even less legal protection from the system and face more discrimination from general society than the rest of the immigrant community. At the Women's Caucus, facilitated by the National Organization of Women, they focused on the special concerns of immigrant women who face intimidation from international sex traffickers and U.S. border guards.
The conference looked for new ideas and strategies for the immigrant rights movement. At the "Planning Camp Democracy" workshop, camp organizer David Swanson said that the antiwar movement should reach out to immigrants rights groups to coordinate with their activities and join their struggles. Furthermore, several labor and community organizing workshops discussed the effects of "free trade" and globalization on migration. Most participants agree that globalization has created more poverty in the Southern hemisphere, forcing more people to risk their lives to migrate north in search of a better life; and this should be closely linked to our future immigrant rights education campaigns. Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler, a civil-rights era leader, spoke about the importance of immigrant rights movement linking with the struggle of African American community to build the black-brown unity.
One of the highlights of the conference was the report from Carolina Reyes, a Latina organizer from the New Orleans Worker Justice Coalition. She showed a video of the May 1 mobilization in New Orleans, which drew thousands to demonstrate solidarity between the city's African-American and Latin@ immigrant communities.
The conference was unanimous in its rejection of the recently passed anti-immigrant legislation--the H.R. 4437 (the House version) and the 'compromise' bill-S.B. 2611 (the Senate version).
During the strategy section on Sunday (7/30), we re-affirmed our "Ten Points of Unity" for the immigrant movement, and adopted national immigrant strategy/action plans for the next 3-6 months. We crated a coordinating committee with more than dozen working groups for the organizing, including Student/Youth, Labor, Direct Action, Day Laborers, Border, Events, Multi-Ethnic, Community Work, Legislation, LGBTQ, Women, Deportation, Education & Outreach, and Interfaith.
The conference endorsed a new concept of the immigrant solidarity movement: grassroots, volunteer-based, direct action-oriented, with strong emphasis on community outreach and popular education.
Some of the highlights of the conference's new focus:
- Creating a multi-ethnic, multi-issue and multi-constituent based immigrant movement, inviting groups that traditionally have been marginalized from the struggle, such as LGBTQ, women and student/youth, African immigrants, and African Americans to be part of the coalition.
- Linking our struggles to the anti-war and global justice movements, and mutually supporting each other's causes.
- Institutionalizing the May 1st boycott "A Day Without Immigrants" and beginning planning for May 1st, 2007.
- Supporting nationwide immigrant marches and actions during Labor Day Weekend, and the September 7th Camp Democracy's Immigrant Rights Day in Washington DC, called by antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan.
- Direct actions as an important part of the immigrant movement.
- Grassroots organizing strategy and education programs.
- 'La gran marcha fronteriza flor y canto' - Conduct a Border Walk during Spring Break 2007, from San Diego, CA to Brownsville, TX.
- Working towards the creation of model legislation that resonates with the movement's principles and values.
- Legislative campaigns, such as immigrant voter registration, and supporting bills such as the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act (LIFE) and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
- Establishing a national support hotline for immigrants who need legal referral, detention support, or help with other urgent needs.
- Developing a vocabulary to replace "amnesty" and "legalization."
There's no doubt that this conference has been the beginning of an historical turning point for the immigrant solidarity movement. With other immigrant conferences in Chicago, IL organized by the March 10th Movement and in Oakland, CA organized by National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), we show that we have the will and strength to continue our momentum, and that we have the passion and energy to fight for our justice and dignity in the years to come.
On May 1st, we showed the world that our force, our strength and our voice cannot be silenced from this moment on! This is the birth of a new civil rights movement for the 21st century, and we will fight for our demands until we prevail.
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