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The Immigrant Rights Movement at a Crossroads

The Immigrant Rights Movement at a Crossroads

By Javier Rodriguez

After the last round of successful May Day 2007 mobilizations, the national debate on immigration reform legislation heated up intensely but it appears the legislation is dead for this congressional session. However, it is clear the recently defeated senate proposal and the one waiting to be addressed in the lower house, the STRIVE ACT are neither pro immigrant, nor pro worker immigration reform and both fall far short of the human rights standards set forth by the United Nations International Covenant for the Protection of Migrant Workers.

Under both proposals, the legalization offer is a torturous expensive process of 10 to 15 years wait for the coveted “Green Card”. Combined with a guest worker program, a destruction of the family unity concept for a point system and of course the so called national security frame work which endangers civil and human rights standards, making mass persecution and the criminalization of immigrants palatable. There is really no trade off. And liberals as well as some progressives in our ranks have been singing the tune that every country has a right to protect its borders, surrealistically forgetting that it is the people of the poverty stricken sending countries of the world who are in need of protection from the criminal appetite of the transnational corporations and the American empire,. The fabricated conflict against Iraq is but one example.

As has been said before by credible experts and the majority of immigrant rights leaders in the country, the two proposals are gross corporate designed legislations that if approved will maintain undocumented immigrants in suspension of their basic human rights, leaving them politically vulnerable and brutally exploitable. In other words continue the “transnational corporate fiesta”.

More than ever the challenge of what is to be done comes to the fore. Either the people and its organized forces conform to the crumbs on the negotiating table or fight back. In the base, the millions of immigrants themselves are in a quandary. The quest to visit the homeland, have a work permit, be legal, have access to college education, secure the family and not have the fear of being deported on their back all are paramount. But for the future of family unity and the millions more to come, the well being of the whole American working class and for the country’s civil and human rights as a society, the stakes are also very high. The results of this social issue will set the path for a higher or a lower standard of living for all for years to come.

Without a doubt the country’s ruling elite have analyzed the Immigration Reform Act-IRCA of 1986 which generously legalized several million immigrants and it only stipulated a one year wait for the coveted green card and an additional five for full citizenship rights. According to Former Secretary of State Edwin Meese, former President Ronald Reagan was sorry he ever signed the IRCA law and today’s ruling elites, “don’t want to make the same error”. Of course this is the view of corporate America and its political class, including the Latino Estalishment.

Apologists for the dead bill have been saying the proposals are not perfect to “fix” the broken immigration system but under present conditions “it’s the best we can get”. Additionally, it has to this year because the presidential campaign will take precedence and there will not be another opportunity for years.

For us it’s imperative to look at the history of that 1982 to 1986. It was early 1982 and the US Supreme Court ruled on the Class Action Case “Silva Vs INS” popularly known as the Silva Letter. It was an official government document which protected over 100,000 immigrants and their families from deportation. As the case resolved and only 20,000 got their permanent residency, the rest went up in arms. It was the explosion that signaled the beginning of a wave of mass protest. (Very similar to HR4437 and the mass reaction of 2006). The immigrant rights movement, founded in LA in 1968 by the Old Man Bert Corona qualitatively changed and met the challenge of the times. From 1982 to 1986 until President Ronald Reagan signed the Amnesty Law, the masses of undocumented immigrants, then an estimated 6 million in the country, organized and demonstrated militantly. We mounted the massive effort for amnesty unto the historical Jesse Jackson for President Campaign of 1984. It was this campaign through the Democratic Primary in California which I was directing in the state’s Latino community. On May 19 of that year we held the largest ever street protest for immigration rights, 10,000 in downtown LA, and Jackson and my brother Antonio Rodriguez led it. It was for legalization, no raids and deportations and against the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill. That march agitated and galvanized the country. We then tactically had Jackson stay at the home of Carmen Lima, an undocumented immigrant female leader of the LA grass roots movement. That was a radical and highly symbolical move by the highest African American leader of the time. From there we catapulted to the San Francisco Democratic National Convention where several hundred Latino delegates frenetically demanded from the leadership to kill the bill. But what put the icing on the cake was civil disobedience. The offices of the top gurus of the National Democratic Party, the Law Firm of Mannat and Associates in Beverly Hills, were taken by 30 undocumented immigrants and leaders and held for several days. The Simpson-Mazzoli Bill was killed and replaced by IRCA 1986, the Simpson Rodino Law. Although it introduced employer sanctions and set four years of residency in the country to qualify, it was a generous amnesty. It empowered millions with a “a permit to work, a one year wait to get the green card and six total to gain citizenship and vote”.

It was the class action law suit, then the mass upsurge, the street heat, the presidential campaign, civil disobedience, a strategy and militant tactics and a radical leadership that did it. The rest is history.

The message of this narration is obvious. In this potentially last stage of the present struggle for the empowerment of the millions of undocumented workers, the conditions for a more creative and militant expression to fight back have to be discussed and analyzed and logically placed into practice. In 2006, history was made when the largest mass movement in the history of this country came to be. It successfully embarrassed the empire. And it was not spontaneous. I designed and guided the political strategy parting from the history of this social movement since 1968 and it was inherently based on the present national and international political and social conditions, including the use of the corporate mass media.

Today, indisputably the gigantic struggle for immigration reform in the United States has been rich in its political and organizational expressions and legacy. This is reflected in its major historical accomplishments that above everything else has changed the collective psyque of the people towards the elusive goal of unity. It is an established fact that the slogan “Si Se Puede” is now a relative reachable reality. The immigrant rights movement and its principal protagonist, the immigrant worker, have generated respect and solidarity, not only here, inside the empire, but worldwide and May 1-International Workers Day is now embedded as a workers holiday
in the country where it was born. And it came in a grand scale with a 2006 May 1 National Great American Boycott that in Los Angeles alone, easily, almost all the industries where Latino immigrants labor, stopped a whopping 75% of the production, including the all important Harbor and Long Beach Ports. It was repeated in 2007 at a much lesser, but respectable level. The latest polls on the country’s sentiments on immigrants and legalization, clearly indicate a majority support for the legalization for immigrants. That translated means, a sentiment for the empowerment of the weakest sector of the working class, the globalized immigrant. Our people.

Today this movement, on par with the developments in Latin America moving away from the neo liberalist economic model and against transnational imperial dominance, is once again at a crossroads. The millions who marched in 2006 and 2007 did so to demand their rights for immediate legalization and empowerment, not to continue being near second and third class and near slaves.

We need to push the right buttons. Set the network of forces on the chosen targets which could give premium political results that will essentially force the political establishment to concede. For this to advance, all targets in the political arena are fair game, including the Republicans, the Democrats, the Latino Establishment and brokers. The fundamental tactics of mass expression including, mass street demonstrations, the boycotts and civil disobedience exist in our political memory and our history.

Javier Rodriguez is a Media and Political Strategist and was the initiator for 1.7 million digitally conted mass protest of March 25, 2006 in Los Angeles jrodhdztf@hotmail.com 323-702-6397

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Contact

Organizing Centers


    Mexico
    Tijuana
    Tuesday, May 1
    5:00 pm - Rally/March - Las Brisas Shopping Center, Blvd. Diaz Ordaz

    Workers Information Center, Cittac
    011-52-664-622-4269 • maquilatijuanasandiego@earthlink.net



    Arizona
    Tucson
    Tuesday, May 1
    8:00 am - Gather SouthGate 3300 S. 6th Ave (6th Ave & 44th St)
    9:00 am - March to Downtown Tucson
    12:00 pm - Rally at Armory Park 220 S 5th Ave

    Tucson May 1st Coalition
    PO Box 1286
    Tucson AZ 85702
    520-770-1373 • may1@iactucson.org mayday2007.iactucson.org
    Download flyers in Español and English


    California
    Davis
    Tuesday, May 1
    UC Davis Campus, Memorial Union Patio
    11-12:00 - Rally at MU patio with musicians and performers
    11:30 am - Solidarity Walk Out. Congregate at MU patio
    12:00 pm - March

    Davis Students Against War Resource
    dsawresource@gmail.com
    http://daviswiki.org/UCD_May_1%2C_2007:_Day_of_Action

    Los Angeles
    Tuesday, May 1
    12:00 pm - March at the beginning of Olympic & Broadway

    National May 1st Movement for Worker & Immigrant Rights
    5274 West Pico Blvd. #203
    Los Angeles CA 90019
    323.702.6397
    Download flyers in Español and English

    Modesto
    Tuesday, May 1
    10:00 am - Rally - Corner of Crows Landing & Hatch Rds.

    www.modestobrownberets.com/cms
    contact@modestobrownberets.com
    www.aztlanrising.com
    contact@aztlanrising.com
    Download flyers in Español/English

    Romoland
    Tuesday, May 1
    5-8:30 pm - corner of 2nd St. and Highway 74

    m_rose_d@hotmail.com

    San Diego
    Tuesday, May 1
    3:00pm - March/Rally - Corner of Park and A

    Si Se Puede Coalition
    619-309-7435 • davidschmidt2003@hotmail.com

    San Francisco
    Tuesday, May 1
    12:00 pm - Dolores Park in the Mission District
    1:00 pm - Grand March for Unconditional Amnesty to the Civic Center

    Movimiento Por Una Amnistia Incondicional/Movement for an Unconditional Amnesty
    415.287.0749
    AmnistiaSF@gmail.com

    San Francisco
    Tuesday, May 1
    7-9:00 pm - Mission & 24th Streets - Candlelight Vigil for Unconditional & General Amnesty

    Barrio Unido


    Colorado
    Denver
    Tuesday, May 1
    10:00 am - Lincoln Park

    Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC)
    1212 Mariposa St; Suite 5
    Denver, CO 80204
    303.893.3500 • julien@coloradoimmigrant.org www.coloradoimmigrant.org


    Illinois
    Chicago
    Tuesday, May 1
    10:00 AM – Plantón/Rally – Union Park [Ashland Ave. and Washington St.]
    12:00 PM – Marcha/March – Randolph St., Desplaines St., Jackson Blvd., Columbus Dr.
    2:00 PM – Plantón/Rally – Grant Park [Balbo Dr. and Columbus Dr.]

    March 10th Movement
    1638 S. Blue Island Ave
    Chicago, IL 60608
    877.762.7242
    Info@movimiento10demarzo.org


    Kentucky
    Louisville
    Tuesday May 1

    5-7:00 pm - Rally/March - Gene Snyder Courthouse to Jefferson Park

    The Kentucky May Day Coalition
    859-685-0387
    www.kccir.org
    Download flyers in Español and English


    Massachusetts
    Boston
    Tuesday May 1

    4:00 pm - Rally/March - Boston Common

    Boston May Day Coalition
    617.290.5614 • info@bostonmayday.org
    www.bostonmayday.org

    Chelsea
    Tuesday May 1

    2:00 pm - March from Everett City Hall
    3:00 pm - March from Chelsea City Hall
    4:00 pm - Rally in Central Square, East Boston

    Chelsea Collaborative
    300 Broadway Chelsea, MA 02150
    617.889.6080 • mail@chelseacollab.org
    www.chelseacollab.org
    Download flyers in Español/English


    Michigan
    Detroit
    Tuesday May 1 - Time/Place - TBD

    Latinos Unidos/United de Michigan (LUUM)
    Rosendo Delgado - 313.887.1849
    Ignacio Meneses - 313.587.9285
    Elena Herrada - 313.974.0501
    www.luum.org
    Download flyers in Español and English


    Minnesota
    Minneapolis
    Tuesday May 1

    4:00 pm - March - Lake St. & Nicollet St.

    MN Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAC)
    651.389.9174
    www.MNImmigrantRights.net
    Download flyers in Español/English
    Download Posters in Español and English


    Nevada
    Las Vegas
    Tuesday May 1

    7:00 pm - US Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

    United Coalition for Immigrant Rights
    740 N. Eastern Avenue, Suite 110
    Las Vegas, NV 89101
    ucir_lv@yahoo.com


    New Jersey
    Elizabeth
    Tuesday May 1

    11:00 am - Warinanco Park
    Mass Meeting

    NJ May 1 Coalition
    973-736-0522 • info@njmay1.org
    www.njmay1.org


    New York
    Buffalo
    Tuesday May 1
    3:00 pm - McKinley High School on Elmwood Avenue
    Marching to a Speakout at Elmwood and Bidwell
    Car caravan from there to City Hall

    Buffalo/WNY International Action Center
    iacbuffalo@action-mail.org

    New York City
    Tuesday May 1
    4:00 pm - Rally & March
    Union Square Park, 14 St. & Broadway
    Marching to Federal Plaza/ Foley Square
    (Site of the African Burial Ground)

    NYC May 1 Coalition
    55 W 17th St.
    New York, NY 10011
    646.291.2778 • www.may1.info>
    Download flyers in Español and English


    North Carolina
    Charlotte
    Tuesday May 1

    4:00 pm - Central Ave & The Plaza
    gather in front of the Harris Teeter to show our support for the Justice at Smithfield Campaign being waged by workers.
    The march will end at the vigil called by Communities for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
    6:00 - Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center
    600 E. 4th St., Charlotte, NC 28202
    Contact: Ruben Campillo, (704) 531-3848

    May 1st Charlotte Movement for Workers & Immigrants Rights
    704.492.8527 • may1charlotte@gamil.com
    www.may1charlotte.info

    Raleigh
    Tuesday May 1

    5-7:00 pm Rally - State Capitol

    North Carolina Justice Center
    919.856.2178 • dani@ncjustice.org
    ncimmigrants.blogspot.com


    Pennsylvania
    Pittsburgh
    Tuesday May 1

    5:00 pm - Rally/March - Allegheny County Jail, 2nd Ave.
    Marching to Mellon Square Park, 6th Ave.

    Pittsburgh Friends of Immigrants


    Texas
    San Antonio
    Tuesday May 1

    12:00 pm - Rally - Milam Park
    6:00 pm - March

    Southwest Workers Union
    210.299.2666
    www.swunion.org
    Download flyers in Español/English


    Washington
    Yakima
    Tuesday May 1

    3:30 pm - March - Miller Park

    Grupo Comunitario por Justicia y Derechos de los Inmigrantes
    509.457.5867 or 509.930.6532


    Wisconsin
    Madison
    Tuesday May 1

    12:00pm - Rally/March - Capitol to Brittingham Park

    Union de Trabajadores Inmigrantes
    Immigrant Workers Union
    608.345.9544 or 608.446.3656
    uti.madison@gmail.com
    www.uniondetrabajadores.org
    download flyers in Español or English

    Milwaukee
    Tuesday May 1

    Un Dia Sin Latin@s/A Day Without Latin@s
    Estatal Marcha por Derechos Civiles y Boicot/Statewide Civil Rights March & Boycott
    12:00 pm - Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. 5th St.

    Voces de la Frontera
    Wisconsin Legalization Coalition
    414.643.1620 • vocesdelafrontera@sbcglobal.net
    www.vocesdelafrontera.net
    download flyers in Español/English

Endorsers

    • Adelberto Central Methodist Church
    • Alianza Nueva Nacion de Guatemala en Los Angeles
    • Angelica Salas, Director - Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los
      Angeles (CHIRLA)
    • Association Tepayac de New York
    • BAYAN-USA
    • Border Social Forum
    • Boston May Day Coalition
    • California Peace & Freedom Party
    • Centro Obrero, Michigan
    • Chris Silvera, Secretary Treasurer Local 808 Teamsters
    • Comite Pro-Amnistia y Justicia Social
    • Cynthia McKinney, former member of Congress
    • Elvira Arellano in Sanctuary Adalberto Church Chicago
    • Emma Goldman Chapter of SDS/MDS
    • Emma Lozano-Centro Sin Fronteras
    • Fr. Luis Barrios, San Romero de Las Americas Church
    • Frantz Mendes, Pres. USW L. 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers
    • Hermandad Mexicana Nacional-California-Nevada
    • Industrial Workers of the World
    • International Action Center
    • Korea Truth Commission - U.S.
    • Latinos Against War
    • LUUM-Latinos Unidos de Michigan
    • March 25th Coalition LA
    • May 1st Coalition-New York
    • MLK Jr. Bolivarian Circle, Boston
    • Most Rev. Filipe C Teixeira, OFSJC
      Northeastern Diocese of Saint Francis of Assisi, CCA
      Immigration Pastoral Center, Inc Massachusetts
    • Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
    • N.J. Civil Rights Defense Committee
    • NALAAC-National NGO Florida Convention
    • New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti
    • Northern California May 1 Coalition
    • Puerto Rican Alliance
    • San Romero de Las Americas Church-UCC
    • Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas-SME (Mexican Electrical Workers Union)
    • South Asian Network
    • Southwest Workers Union-San Antonio
    • Troops Out Now Coalition
    • UNION DE JURISTAS DE MEXICO
    • Union de Trabajadores Inmigrantes
    • Union of Progressive Iranians
    • United American Indians of New England
    • United Front for Affordable Housing
    • US-Cuba Labor Exchange
    • Workers World Party
    • World Can't Wait


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