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The Immigrant Rights Movement: A Year in Retrospect

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  • Steven L. Robinson
    The Immigrant Rights Movement: A Year in Retrospect www.solidarity-us.org Last spring, in response to punitive legislation proposed in Congress and increased
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2007
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      The Immigrant Rights Movement: A Year in Retrospect

      www.solidarity-us.org

      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
      immigrants.

      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
      unity were:

      Immediate unconditional legalization for all undocumented currently in the
      United States

      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>

      <http://www.solidarity-us.org/mayfirst>

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