Reports on New Events in Migrant Workers’ Fight:

Immigrant Rights Conference Calls for Moratorium on Deportations, Sets Dates for September Protests

Elvira Arellano Defies Deportation Order, Movement Rallies to Her Defense


[We reproduce below, for the information of our readers, several reports on the immigrant rights conference held in Chicago Aug. 11-13, 2006,which is calling for a moratorium on deportations, and on the related case of Elvira Arellano, a spokeswoman for the rights of immigrant families who has refused to turn herself in to “Homeland Security” for deportation to Mexico and has taken sanctuary in her church in Chicago.]

New Immigrant Rights Network Launched

by Bill Onasch (host of the web site www.kclabor.org)

[This is adapted from the author’s “Week in Review” dated Aug. 15, 2006.]

I was among more than 400 participants from 25 states who gathered in suburban Chicago last weekend for the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention. The gathering was called by the March 10 Movement, based in Chicago, the principal force behind several massive demonstrations and work stoppages in March, April, May, and July this year in Chicago involving hundreds of thousands.

The objective of the conference was: “To establish an independent, nationally coordinated network and promote a national strategy which focuses on the defense and promotion of workers’ and immigrants’ rights. Our struggle is for CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS and for all WORKERS’ RIGHT TO WORK.”

The political framework for the gathering was “10 Points of Unity,” which included:

         Unconditional legalization for ALL

         No to HR4437 and similar Senate version legislation

         No to the criminalization of immigrants

         No to border walls and militarization of the border

         No to guest-worker programs

         No to employer sanctions

         Yes to expedited family reunification visas

         Yes to the protection of labor and civil rights, and civil liberties

         No to deportations

         No to the use of local law enforcement for immigration purposes.

But no one was turned away. There were representatives from unions that support guest worker programs, as well as observers—like me, from the Kansas City Labor Party—whose organizations have not yet adopted positions on some of these points. In general, the atmosphere was one of fraternal goodwill, and a wide range of viewpoints—of varying usefulness—was expressed.

Such a gathering was clearly needed. The massive immigrant rights marches earlier this year were perhaps the biggest political demonstrations in U.S. history. But they were semi-spontaneous, put together on the run by ad hoc formations that had no unified plan for a next step. Since then the politicians have worked to divert the fledgling movement into the dead end of lobbying for the least objectionable legislation and working to “take back Congress” in the coming midterm election. (No one has yet adequately explained to me just when we ever “had” a Congress which we now will “take back.”)

A key component in this conference was the reaching out by conference organizers to organized labor, which met some positive response. SEIU was present in some force. Other unions that took part in the deliberations included Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Teamsters, UNITE-HERE, Laborers, UE, AFSCME, UFCW, Transport Workers Union. The Smithfield and Wal-Mart [union-organizing] campaigns were highly visible.

A couple of days before the strategy convention the AFL-CIO announced a  partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the nation’s largest day laborer association. At the convention the Teamsters spoke about a projected campaign in support of mainly immigrant, “independent contractor” port drivers in California. Such efforts have the potential to bring some immediate sorely needed improvements to these workers as well as strengthening what should be a natural alliance between unions and the immigrant rights movement.

The gathering was largely Latino, majority Mexican, reflecting the composition of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. However, there were speakers representing Chinese, South Asian, Irish, and other immigrants as well, and the new organization has pledged to reach out to all ethnic groups.

Spanish was the “official” language of the convention but English translations were provided in the main sessions for the monolingual, such as me.

Two sets of actions were set for this fall. Efforts will be made to get immigrant rights contingents in Labor Day events around the country. There will also be various local activities ranging from prayer vigils to demonstrations on September 30—marking the conclusion of the present Congress—to project the issue into the election campaign.

A new organization, the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights, was established.

A provisional steering committee of about sixty delegates representing various constituencies was selected.

All in all, this convention was a very positive experience producing a promising new network. I’ll have more to say later and will post links to articles about the event as they become available.


Two Other Reports on the Immigrant Rights Conference

In Chicago, August 11-13, 2006, over 400 activists and organizers of the recent Immigrant Workers’ Rights marches (held in March, April, May, and July of 2006) met in Chicago to debate strategy and tactics for the way to move forward in their quest to ensure equality, amnesty, and citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers contributing to the American economy. The conference was called by the March 10 Coalition ( www.movimiento10demarzo.org) <http://www.movimiento10demarzo.org)>, and endorsed and attended by dozens of organizations in solidarity with the nationwide struggle. A 9-minute video report on the conference may be viewed on the Internet. This segment is part of an upcoming episode of Labor Beat, a public access television program produced in Chicago. For more information, go to www.laborbeat.org http://www.laborbeat.org or contact us at laborbeat.org or 312-226-3330


700 Immigrant Rights Activists Form National Alliance;

Set Protests for Labor Day Weekend and September 30

by Joaquin Bustelo

(cross-posted from Marxmail.org)

CHICAGO—Hundreds of immigrant activists and supporters met in Chicago August 11–13 in a national strategy convention of the legalization-for-all wing of the movement.

The event was the largest of at least three national gatherings of immigration activists held over the summer, and the one that was directly based on the “Calendar Coalitions,” as the Latino-led grass-roots–based left wing of the immigrant rights movement is popularly known because many local groups take their name from the date they were formed or held a significant action.

The main decision of the convention was to found a National Alliance for Immigrant Rights around the central demands of a halt to all deportations and full legalization for all immigrants. A national coordinating council was created with the participation of activists from all over the country.

“The most important thing is that we gave the movement a national structure that will allow us to coordinate our actions,” Jorge Mujica, one of the key organizers of the convention told reporters shortly after the meeting concluded.

“We have transformed ourselves into a national movement.”

The Alliance also projected a series of nationally-coordinated local actions, the first during the Labor Day holiday weekend, the second on September 30, right before the beginning of the government’s new fiscal year and Congress’s adjournment for the elections.

These protests will be demanding not just legalization for all, but an immediate moratorium on all deportations and round-ups pending Congressional enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform.

Right now Congress is deadlocked on the issue. The House has passed a punitive, so-called “enforcement”-only act which militarizes the border and brands all undocumented immigrants as “aggravated felons.”

Attempts by the Senate to reach a “compromise” with the House have only led to a Senate bill that incorporates many of the repressive features of the House version and has a convoluted, multi-tiered structure for a temporary semi-legalization that would not cover many millions of undocumented workers already in the country and puts off citizenship for those that do qualify almost two decades.

This attempted “compromise” has been rejected by the Republican House leadership.

The conference voted to oppose both these bills. “Better no law than a bad law,” said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association and a leader of the movement in Los Angeles.

Instead, the convention agreed to counterpose to bills like those, an immediate moratorium on raids and deportations pending further Congressional action.

The generalization of the moratorium demand to the national movement as a whole represents an important advance in taking into account the desperation of millions of undocumented people who want full legalization for all, but consider even a partial and punitive legalization better than no legalization at all.

Attendance at the convention far exceeded the expectations of the organizers. They had expected 300 participants at the event. In reality more than 400 formally registered, and many more participated without registering. Organizers estimated that, in all, around 700 people took part.

The big majority of those attending were Latinos, with Mexicans the biggest Latino nationality, as they are in the population as a whole. Reflecting the immigrant composition of the majority, the convention was mostly conducted in Spanish with simultaneous translation into English.

For many participants, an important part of the conference was the convening of a women’s caucus that demanded full, equal participation by women in all aspects of the movement.

The impetus for the formation of the caucus came from Latina activists in their twenties who objected to the virtually all-male slate of presenters and chairs organized for the first plenary session of the convention.

The convention as a whole unanimously approved motions from the caucus requiring equal female representation in all leading bodies and among spokespeople and national coordinators.


The Case of Elvira Arellano

by Joaquin Bustelo

[This commentary was first posted on marxmail.org on August 17, 2006; it has been edited somewhat for Labor Standard.]

I spent the weekend in Chicago, at the Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention, and met a wonderful fighter there, a young Mexican woman by the name of Elvira Arellano. The immigration Gestapo wants to deport her. She’s a “convicted criminal” because she used a social security number that wasn’t hers, no less. As for her son, he can stay. He was born here, and is thus a citizen, at least until the Republicans [and Democrats] can figure out how to correct the 14th Amendment.

For several years now, her deportation has been staved off by a “Private Bill” introduced by a Latino Congressman [Luis Gutierrez] and Senator Dick Durbin. But this year Senator Dick forgot. Well, not exactly “forgot.” He decided to send a message.

You see, Elvira Arellano has become one of the most attractive and effective spokespeople for the immigrants cause. The “poster child.” That’s what the corporate press calls her.

And she’s been demanding a stop to ALL deportations.

If Durbin had once again filed a “private bill” on behalf of Arellano, along with the one already pending for her in the House (sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez), then La Migra [the immigration police] would grant her a stay of deportation.

But Durbin refuses to act.

“It is an unfortunate truth that scores of people are in the same situation as Elvira and her family,” Durbin said in a statement Tuesday. “We cannot fix the injustices of this system with private bills. Only comprehensive immigration reform can permanently remedy this situation.”

“Comprehensive Immigration Reform” meaning, precisely, the “Sensenbrenner-Lite” legislation the Senate cooked up as a “compromise,” which is just slavery on the installment plan for immigrant workers.

Durbin is punishing Elvira Arellano with the threat of separating her from her seven-year-old-son because she has opposed and exposed the treachery of the Democrats in Congress.

Illinois has two Senators, just like every other state. Both happen to be Democrats. By precedent and tradition, one of them must be the sponsor of her bill, or she will be deported.

[The other Illinois senator, besides Durbin, is the supposed great liberal, Barack Obama!]

Elvira Arellano had been ordered to report for deportation Tuesday morning [August 15]. Instead, she claimed sanctuary in a church. The idea of “sanctuary” of course has no legal force. Such notions went out with the bourgeois revolution. But it buys time for you to do something.

Call Senator Durbin’s office. Demand that he support the private bill to stave off Elvira’s deportation. And remember what a disgrace he is to the human race for blackmailing a mother like that..

And for good measure, call the other Senator, Barak Obama also, and make the same demand.

The following information was put out by Elvira’s supporters in Illinois:

PLAN OF ACTION to help Elvira Arellano

“In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”—[remark attributed to] Margaret Thatcher, 1970

 People: Gente:

We simply cannot remain silent, nor stand by…This was a very courageous step on Elvira’s part and we cannot let her stand alone.

Call, Fax, and Email the Senators of the state of Illinois and ask them to support the bill that would enable Elvira to stay. Tell them that you want them to support HR1628—Private Bill; for the relief of Elvira Arellano.

Sponsored by: Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. (introduced 4/13/2005)

Barack Obama

Email at: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/

Washington D.C. Office

713 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

(202) 224-2854

(202) 228-4260 fax

(202 228-1404 TDD

Chicago Office

John C. Kluczynski Federal Office Building

230 South Dearborn St.

Suite 3900 (39th floor)

Chicago, Illinois 60604

(312) 886-3506

(312) 886-3514 fax

Toll free: (866) 445-2520

(for IL residents only)

Springfield Office

607 East Adams Street

Springfield, Illinois 62701

(217) 492-5089

(217) 492-5099 fax

Marion Office

701 North Court Street

Marion, Illinois 62959

(618) 997-2402

(618) 997-2850 fax

Moline Office

1911 52nd Avenue

Moline, Illinois 61265

(309)736-1217

(309)736-1233 fax

Dick Durbin:

E-mail: http://durbin.senate.gov/contact.cfm#contact

Washington, DC

332 Dirksen Senate Bldg.

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-2152

(202) 228-0400 - fax

Chicago

230 S Dearborn St. STE 3892

Chicago, IL 60604-1483

(312) 353-4952

(312) 353-0150 - fax

Springfield

525 South 8th St.

Springfield, IL 62703

(217 ) 492-4062

(217) 492-4382 - fax

Marion

701 N. Court St.

Marion, IL 62959

(618) 998-8812

(618) 997-0176 – fax


“New York Times” on the Case of Elvira Arellano

[We reproduce this item, with a few bracketed comments, for the information of our readers as an illustration of how the corporate-owned press covers this issue.]

CHICAGO, Aug. 18 — In a small storefront church in a Puerto Rican neighborhood on the city’s West Side, Elvira Arellano, a fugitive from the government, waits with her 7-year-old son and prays.

[A photo shows Elvira Arellano greeting Luz Vega-Marquis before a news conference Friday, August 18, 2006, at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Ms. Arellano, 31, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, defied an order to report to the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday to be deported and is instead seeking sanctuary in her church.]

Ms. Arellano is hoping Congress will act on a private relief bill that would allow her and her son, Saul, a United States citizen who has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, to stay in the country, where she says he can get better medical treatment.

“I’m not a terrorist,” said Ms. Arellano, who came to the United States illegally nine years ago and is facing her second deportation. “I’m only a single mother with a son who’s an American citizen.”

Ms. Arellano, president of an advocacy group called La Familia Latina Unida, said she hoped her action would help to bring about legislation to protect families that could be torn apart by deportation.

Immigrants’ rights groups and critics of illegal immigration are closely watching her case. Some supporters have likened her to Rosa Parks, while detractors say Ms. Arellano broke the law and should face the consequences.

Critics say illegal immigrants have children with the hope that they will be allowed to stay in the United States. “She had an anchor baby, that’s what she did,” said Mike McGarry, acting director of the Colorado Alliance for [so-called] Immigration Reform. “If she was so concerned about her child, she’d take him with her.”

Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras, an advocacy group in Chicago, sees it differently. “She became for all of us a symbol of resistance to the unjust, broken laws of this country,” Ms. Lozano said. “This cross that she bears for all the undocumented is because she’s been chosen.”

Ms. Arellano has received supportive calls and e-mail from across the country and beyond.

Dolores Huerta, 76, a laborers’ advocate who founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez, flew to Chicago from California on Thursday to show her support. “Legislation must be proposed so these children don’t stay without their parents,” she said.

Ms. Arellano was deported in 1997 after crossing from Mexico illegally. She returned and had Saul, working in Washington State before moving to Chicago in 2000. She was arrested in 2002 at O’Hare International Airport, where she cleaned planes, for using a false Social Security number.

She was granted a stay of deportation after a private relief bill was introduced in the Senate in 2003 because of her son’s medical needs. Last year, two similar bills were introduced in the House, but no action has been taken.

At Adalberto United Methodist Church, where Ms. Arellano has been staying, the windows are plastered with copies of letters of support from Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, who introduced the House legislation, and Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Ms. Arellano also posted a statement, saying if she is arrested on “holy ground,” she “will know that God wants me to be an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current policy of this government.”

[New York Times Finds One of the Racist “Minutemen” to Quote From]

Such talk offends people like Rosanna Pulido, director of the Illinois Minuteman Project. “She’s spewing all this anti-American stuff,” Ms. Pulido said. “The thing that scares me the most is her defiance, it really does.”

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it has the authority to arrest anyone in the country in violation of immigration law. But an immigration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because policy prohibits discussing agency plans, said Friday that the authorities had other priorities and did not plan an arrest at the church.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Walter Coleman, said helping Ms. Arellano was part of his calling. “There’s a tradition in this country as well as around the world that governments respect the dignity and the faith of the church and don’t trample on that,” Mr. Coleman said. “I’m much more afraid of God than I am of Homeland Security.”

Ira Mehlman, media director of the [so-called] Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the law holds parents responsible for their actions regardless of their children’s situation. “However sympathetic her child may be, you can’t allow someone to hide behind their children,” Mr. Mehlman said.

Jaime P. Martinez, national treasurer of the League of United Latin American Citizens, an advocacy group in Washington, said Ms. Arellano’s case was mobilizing the movement as the government seems to be cracking down. “I have never seen these types of deportations in my life,” said Mr. Martinez, 50, who visited Ms. Arellano on Thursday. “I believe it’s an agenda that they have to turn away the progress that was being made.”

But Carlina Tapia-Ruano, an [anti-immigrant] immigration lawyer in Chicago, said she doubted that Ms. Arellano’s actions would change anyone’s mind.

“My concern is that when we have individuals who so publicly voice their disregard of our laws,” Ms. Tapia-Ruano said, “I believe that that gives greater ammunition for those who are on the extremes.”

But Ms. Arellano is confident. “I didn’t allow them to deport me, and the community is supporting me,” she said. “I’m not afraid of anything because I’m in the house of God.”