Immigrant rights are workers’ rights

June 6, 2011

Los Angeles–At a March 5 gathering sponsored by the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), over 60 people gathered to address immigrant workers’ concerns, such as stopping the attacks on and the abuse of vendors, the need for “Legalization now,” abolishing Arizona SB 1070, and ending police harassment and brutality.

An LAPD officer shot and killed Carlos Jiménez, a young unarmed Guatemalan, last September, which resulted in days of mass protests. A Latina asked for support because her son Johnathan Cuevas was killed by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies Oct. 10. A Latino said, “Keep the police out of the community, they never solve our problems. Gang members give police the excuse to abuse the community.”

A Guatemalan spoke of 36 years of U.S. intervention including creation of death squads starting in 1954. He said 46 million people live in poverty. “We have a right to a job, to education, to think for ourselves.”

Another Guatemalan said the long history of extreme poverty is why 10% of Guatemalans live in the U.S. and the right to migrate for economic reasons is a human right under the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

A few weeks later on March 26, 10,000 workers and their unions marched and rallied to stop layoffs, furloughs, and cuts in salary and benefits. On that same day, the SCIC hosted a national organizing gathering for immigrant rights with the theme “Immigrant Rights Are Workers’ Rights.”

Criminalizing undocumented immigrants is a fundamental problem. A day labor organizer said that the “Secure Communities Program” (SC) is racial profiling. Under SC, police act as immigration agents, supposedly targeting criminals. In Riverside County, 45% of immigrants detained had committed no crime. A Latina said there’s a lack of legal defense for those in detention and 80% of the deported are Mexicans.

SC is an attack on the immigrant communities just as Los Angeles’s “Safe Cities Initiative” is an attack on the homeless on Skid Row. In both cases, it is criminalizing poverty created by the capitalist system itself. As a Latina stated, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement have resulted in much migration. One man said, “They call blaming the victims of their plight ‘democracy.’ Boycott Arizona!!”

Other demands were: stop the ICE raids and the separation of families by detention or deportation; issue regular drivers licenses, not special ones for immigrants; end Bracero (guest workers) programs; recognize the rights of workers (including day workers) to organize; stop the militarization of the border where there are privatized armies; tear down the border wall and prosecute racist vigilante groups. In summary, end criminal charges and prosecution based on a person’s immigration status.

One way to stop the worldwide imperialist economic policies is for the workers of the world to unite. A start would be a show of solidarity with immigrants on May Day.

On April 6, 500 Latino immigrant workers and their supporters marched and rallied in high spirits in downtown Los Angeles for full rights for immigrant workers.

Among the participants were Laborers’ International Union of North America, Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights-L.A., Full Rights for All Field Workers, Southern California District Council of Laborers, and Left groups including News and Letters Committees.

The demonstration focused on women’s rights and opposed “ripping apart” families. There were chants, “Obama!Escucha, mujeres en la lucha!” (Listen, Obama, women are in the struggle!) There were many picket signs with photos of a little girl in tears and the words, “Janet Napolitano, don’t take my parents away, stop deportations!!” Other signs read, “Timothy Bishop–don’t take my parents away” and “Tom Harkin–don’t take my parents away.”

A speaker said, “We are in modern slavery. Immigrants suffer the most in an economic crisis. Women are not the problem, they are the solution.” A speaker protested that Obama is continuing Bush’s policy. A banner quoted M.L. King, Jr.: “Justice delayed is justice denied” and a speaker quoted Malcolm X: “This country isn’t a democracy, it’s a hypocrisy.”


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