On Friday, April 7, one day after Senate Republicans toughened an already harsh immigration proposal, leaders from diverse immigrant groups, legal experts, and key anti-war organizers joined their efforts to oppose the wars at home and abroad. Throughout this month, immigrants are spearheading local and national actions to demand an end to the wars at home and abroad.
The anti-war movement has joined them. Judith LeBlanc, national co-chair of United for Peace & Justice-NYC said, “The Bush administrations foreign and domestic policies are closely intertwined, both premised on aggression, fear, intolerance and injustice. Peace abroad is impossible without fighting for justice at home.”
The U.S. has been at war in Iraq for three years, with no end in sight. Despite the fact that support for the war has plummeted, Congress has refused to debate the war since the initial authorization to use military force in 2002. Since then, they have voted to give Bush more than $300 billion for the war, and thousands of U.S. service people and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.
Simultaneously, Congress has continued its unabridged efforts to wreak havoc at home, galvanizing fear of so-called external enemies, this time, by targeting immigrants. Amidst a raging legislative battle in the Senate, New York is just days away from the April 10th mobilization for immigrant families and workers, scheduled for this Monday from 3-7pm at City Hall. Over 70 cities across the U.S. are participating in this nationwide day of action to demand immigrant rights.
Stan Mark, Program Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) explained, “The administrations treatment of immigrants of all communities in the U.S. has been inhumane, unconstitutional and anti-democratic, on the pretext of fighting terrorism. We demand that Congress and the President hold themselves accountable to basic human rights principles and allow all immigrants to adjust their status and fully participate in our society with complete worker protections at last.”
Rafaela Lozano, a Dominican community leader and organizer with Families for Freedom, emphasized not only the need for real legalization, but the need to stop de-legalization, “About 1.4 million people have been deported in the last 10 years. Immigrants are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. We need Congress to repeal already brutal deportation laws. And we have positive alternatives.”
Lozano pointed to legislation introduced in the House last week by Congressman Jose Serrano that, if passed, would give US citizen children consideration in immigration court before a parent is deported. Groups in New York and nationwide are mobilizing to Washington DC on April 24ththe 10-year anniversary of sweeping anti-immigrant laws passed under the Clinton administration in 1996.
Joan Gibbs, an African American community leader who directs the Medgar Evers College Immigration Center, said, “There are some in the Black community who have asserted that immigrants are taking jobs from Black people. Truth is, globalization has taken jobs here and ruined economies abroad. The civil rights movement produced true change in the immigration law. We stood firm with our brother and sisters from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America then, and we still do today.”
In the final major mobilization this month, the national peace and justice march on April 29th here in New York, immigrants and citizens will lift their voices and banners together. As the mid-term election season gets underway, we will march to demand that Congress and the White House end the Iraq war and abandon the Bush Administrations destructive domestic and foreign policy agenda.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an immigration bill that would, if passed into law: 1) expand the grounds of deportation; 2) use domestic military bases for immigration detention; 3) legalize the indefinite detention of non-citizens; 3) authorize New York City police and other local officers to enforce federal immigration laws; 4) erect a border fence; 5) enable Homeland Security agents to expel suspected foreigners indiscriminately; and 6) create a national identification system for all workers, among other measures.
And of course there is the remaining House bill, H.R. 4437, which would criminalize acts by anyone providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. In December, H.R. 4437 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 182—a signal that our country is facing its most fierce rights crisis since the struggle over racial segregation in the 1960s.
Immigrant organizations demanded that the federal government:
- Create real legalization with a path to citizenship for immigrant workers.
- Stop cruel detentions & deportations that are destroying families.
- Stop using laws to criminalize immigrant communities.
- Protect all of our fundamental liberties.
- End the war in Iraq, and the preemptive first-strike war policy.
The event, co-sponsored by the Independent Press Association of NY (an umbrella organization for NYC immigrant press), had speakers from across ethnic and political spectra including:
- Judith LeBlanc, United for Peace & JusticeNYC
- Avideh Moussavian, New York Immigration Coalition
- Gouri Sadhwani, New York Civic Participation Project
- Monami Maulik, DRUM and Immigrant Communities in Action (coordinator)
- Rafaela Lozano, Families for Freedom community organizer against deportations
- Benita Jain, Immigrant Defense Project of the NYSDA
- Priscilla Gonzalez, Domestic Workers United
- Joan Gibbs, Medgar Evers Center for Law & Social Justice
- Bobby Khan, Coney Island Avenue Project, Pakistani community leader
- Bakary Tandia, African Services Committee
- Jose Richards, Sons & Daughters of Jamaica
- Shirley Lin, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Arif Ullah, American Friends Services Committee
NEW YORK’S COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO UNITE FOR CHANGEUPCOMING EVENTS:
- MONDAY, APRIL 10: Unions and community groups rally for immigrant rights in front of City Hall from 3pm-7pm.
- MONDAY, APRIL 24: Families affected by deportation convene in Washington, D.C. to demand that Congress stop deportations, and that the embassies of our home countries stand behind their nationals.
- SATURDAY, APRIL 29: Immigrant rights and anti-war groups come together in the March for Peace, Justice and Democracy. S