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Rage One (blog)

viernes, abril 21, 2006

Immigrant Rights Report:
Friday, April 21, 2006 AM


Immigration Crackdown: 1,200 Undocumented Workers Detained Across U.S.
Friday, April 21st, 2006

In what is being called one of the largest immigration crackdowns in recent U.S. history, 1200 undocumented workers from 26 different states were rounded up and detained late Wednesday. We take a look at the unprecedented immigration raids and the ongoing struggle for immigrant rights.
We look at the ongoing struggle around immigration rights in this country. On Wednesday evening, immigration authorities rounded up almost 1,200 undocumented immigrants in 26 states in what law enforcement officials say was the culmination of a year-long criminal investigation. The authorities raided the offices and plants of the company IFCO Systems North America which is based in Houston, Texas and makes wooden pallets and crates. Among those arrested were seven current and former managers who were charged with conspiracy to transport, harbor and encourage illegal immigrants to reside in the United States for commercial and financial gain. The managers face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each undocumented worker. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made the announcement of the arrests yesterday morning.

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security speaking April 20, 2006.

The arrests come on the heels of the massive rallies in support of immigration rights that have taken place in the last month. The rallies are a response to proposed federal legislation that would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals and would fence off sections of the U.S border with Mexico. In Chicago, which held some of the earliest protests, it is estimated that up to 60 people were arrested last night in the raids and were held at the Broadview Detention Facility on the city's Southwest Side.

Jorge Mujica, one of the lead organizers for the March 10 protest in Chicago that drew up to 300,000 people. A former journalist and union organizer, Mujica has worked for La Raza, Univision, and Telemundo, and has been involved in union organizing in both the US and in Mexico.


Chertoff issues warning to firms who hire illegal immigrants = Thu, Apr. 20, 2006
BY FRANK JAMES Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - A day after federal agents arrested 1,187 people on illegal immigration charges in the nation's largest-ever work-site enforcement action, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Thursday warned of an intensified campaign to target employers whose businesses rely on large numbers of undocumented workers.

But there was suspicion among some immigration lawyers that the crackdown was more a Bush administration response to criticism that for years it had done too little work-site enforcement. They questioned whether the administration would follow through with the new get-tough approach.

The arrests of employees of IFCO Systems, a Netherlands-based company that manufactures wooden pallets, came amid the raging national debate over illegal immigration. There was evidence that the arrests already were being factored into that debate.

"This complements the temporary worker notion," Chertoff said, referring to the proposal in Congress that a legal path be provided for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status in the United States.

"We want to create a very clear choice for employers," he said. "A legal path that'll be regulated, that'll be totally visible and that will allow the hiring of workers in accordance with the law, on a temporary basis. ... Or a choice not to follow the law, which will be met with a very tough sanction."

Legislation that was part of a Senate compromise that might be taken up next week when Congress returns would create a new guest-worker program and allow undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status in the United States, a path that could lead to citizenship.

Congressional and other critics of legalization have pointed to the lack of work-site enforcement of immigration laws as a reason to oppose the proposal.

The arrests at the IFCO sites, which included seven current and former company managers charged with felony conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, came after a year's investigation, Chertoff said. They were triggered when a witness at an IFCO location in New York state saw many workers destroying their W-2 tax forms.

When the witness asked why they were doing that, IFCO managers said the workers "wouldn't need their W-2s because they were illegal aliens, had invalid Social Security numbers and, therefore, weren't going to be filing income tax returns," Chertoff said.

The company did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on the raids, but in a statement Wednesday it pledged to cooperate with the investigation and comply with employment requirements.

But immigration-rights activist Roberto Carlos Lopez of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or Community Without Borders, called upon the government Thursday to stop such raids and any deportations while Congress debates immigration. Lopez spoke outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Chicago, where he had gathered with a small group of activists and Mexican immigrants.

The 26 people arrested at a Southwest Side IFCO site were released on their own recognizance Thursday from a federal immigration processing facility in Broadview, Ill., ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said.

Lopez said the arrests at IFCO sites were intended to intimidate the immigrant community.

"It is undeniable that these raids were timed right after the historic marches and demonstrations and it's a move by the (Bush) administration to try and intimidate and stop this movement," Lopez said. "They can't stop our movement. If anything it will make us stronger."

But Chertoff, speaking in Washington, said, "The fact of the matter is there are employers who knowingly or recklessly hire unauthorized workers, and they've actually built their business on being able to do that ... so those are the employers, the bad actors, that we have to target.

"And we're going to move beyond the current level of activity to a higher level in each month and year to come," he said.

David Whitlock, an immigration and labor lawyer in Atlanta, said he suspected that the crackdown was linked to criticism that the Homeland Security Department has received in the past year - and heightened recently - that it has been lax in such enforcement.

In all of fiscal 2005, Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency filed only two notices of its intent to fine employers who violated the law by hiring illegal immigrants, Whitlock said.

Whitlock suspected that the IFCO announcement was "enforcement by propaganda. You're seeing a case of that now. The Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods deals were exactly that. It's pick on a big huge employer that's dominant in an industry ... see what sticks and move on."

Wal-Mart in 2005 agreed to pay an $11 million fine for using a contractor that employed illegal immigrants, an amount many experts considered a slap on the wrist compared with the company's revenues. Tyson employees were acquitted in 2003 of smuggling illegal immigrants to work in its plants.

"What I heard Chertoff saying was, `Look out, we're going to have enforcement now.' And we'll see if it's going to be enforcement by publicity or not," Whitlock said.

Chicago Tribune correspondent Mitch Dudek contributed to this report from Chicago.


Immigrant rights struggle shows no let-up
Author: Rosalio Muñoz
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 04/20/06 13:41

With Congress reconvening April 24 after a two-week recess, the dramatic struggle for immigrant rights will once again focus on Capitol Hill. At the same time, pro-immigrant-rights forces are reaching out, coalescing and organizing to give life to the slogan, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!”

The right-wing Republican leadership, which dominates all three branches of government, continues to give top priority to harshly restrictive, repressive and punitive law enforcement measures.

Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will reopen committee hearings to discuss S 2611, the “compromise bill” introduced by GOP Senators Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.). There is talk that Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) may take S 2611 directly to the Senate floor.

The Hagel-Martinez bill contains provisions that would deny legalization to untold numbers of immigrants.

Frist, Specter and President Bush have insisted that the debate on S 2611 allow for the introduction of even harsher anti-immigrant provisions than it currently contains. They charge Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is “opposing border security” by blocking such moves.

As more rights advocates examine the bill’s 500-plus pages, the growing consensus is that S 2611 is seriously flawed by virtue of its denial of civil rights, civil liberties and labor protections. “Immigration reform should not become the means to undermine the Constitution,” warned Caroline Frederickson, the Washington-based legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

AFL-CIO legislative aide Sonia Ramirez said that although the 9-million-member labor federation finds S 2611 unacceptable, the possibility that it might pass requires that pro-immigrant and pro-labor forces push for positive amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Knowing who is in charge, it is likely the bill can get much worse,” she said.

Mass pressure has forced some Senate Republicans to support “path to citizenship” provisions and to oppose some of the harshest and most punitive language in draft legislation like HR 4437, the so-called Sensenbrenner bill. Opposition to HR 4437 is the strongest point of unity among the immigrant rights forces.

Millions of Americans rallied in uncounted numbers of cities, towns and villages across the nation April 10. A broad coalition, with immigrant, labor and religious group support, spearheaded the effort, coordinating over 150 events. Now the coalition is coordinating another National Day of Action on May 1.

“Family unity” is the keynote of the May 1 events, said Juan Carlos Ruiz, coalition coordinator. As of April 17, he said, “we have 52 cities participating and they are growing every minute.” Musical festivals, rallies, vigils, voter registration and educational programs about the electoral process are planned. While some groups are calling for a national boycott of work, school and commerce, most areas are not ready for such action, Ruiz said.

“We continue to urge everyone to pressure Congress to oppose HR 4437 and to lobby the Judiciary Committee and all of Congress for a comprehensive bill with a clear path to citizenship, family reunification, labor and civil rights, and a safe and secure border,” said Ruiz.

The coalition is planning electoral efforts in support of those candidates who support immigrant rights and plans to work with African American and other groups on issues like voting rights. For more information on the coalition, visit


Support for immigrant rights = 4/20/2006 8:43 PM
By: News 10 Now Staff

Syracuse joins other cities around the country organizing a march in support of migrant workers and immigrant rights.

The Migrant Coalition says they will march through downtown Syracuse this Saturday. The group will meet at the Spanish Action League on Oswego Street in Syracuse at 11a.m. and march to Clinton Square.

Organizers say the theme of the march is 'No Human Being is Illegal" and the group says it is important to keep these workers in the United States.


Support for immigrant rights

Syracuse joins other cities around the country organizing a march in support of migrant worker and immigrant rights.

"These are not jobs that American's want. Particularly at those low wages. So if American's want those jobs then they would demand way higher wages. Then you have to deal with the fact that if I am going to pay this much to have my crop picked then I have got to pass that price along to the supermarket and the vendors and the consumers," said Maritza Alvarado of the Spanish Action League.

Organizers of the march say this is not just a national issue, they say it affects all of us in Central and Northern New York as well.


Immigrant Rights Protests Increasing Citizenship Interest
Experts: Many Legal Immigrants Now Seeking Citizenship
April 20, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Some feel that the recent immigrants rights demonstrations nationwide have now led to a surge of interest in U.S. citizenship by legal immigrants.

America Calderone is the citizenship program manager at the Central American Resource Center of Washington. She teaches citizenship classes, and prepares legal immigrants to take their citizenship test. She said her classes are now more popular than ever.

"People really want to vote. That they want to have a say as to who they have as a representative and have people who think immigrants are good for this country," said Calderon.

Calderon told News4 there used to be about 15 students in her citizenship class, now there are about 30.

Saul Solozano, the executive director of the CARC, said he is thrilled to see the wave of interest in attaining citizenship.

"Citizenship is a way to say, 'I'm here. I want to stay here. I want to participate, and I want to be counted,'" Solozano said.

The class that Calderone teaches meets once a week for 10 weeks. During the class, students go over 10 questions that they could face on the citizenship test.

Other local community groups and churches also hold citizenship classes.

Calderone came to the United States from Guatemala 23 years ago. She is a permanent resident, but said that because of the high-profile debate on immigration she plans to take her citizenship test for the first time this year.


African Americans have a stake in immigrant rights
Search WWW Search

Archive Recent Editions 2006 Editions April 22, 2006
Author: Rosita Johnson
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 04/20/06 16:09

To see thousands of immigrants and their supporters marching, rallying and standing up for their rights is inspiring. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was correct when she called immigration the civil rights issue of our time. The organized protests were responding to HR 4437 (and S 2454), legislation that would make every undocumented immigrant a felon and also criminalize organizations and individuals that helped them. The NAACP and other Black civil rights organizations have pledged their solidarity with immigrant rights.

The upsurge of millions of immigrant workers has led some to suggest they pose a problem for Black workers. Black Americans do face a crisis, but immigrants are not the cause.

The unemployment rate for African Americans is two to thee times the average rate for the entire population. More than 40 percent of African American workers work in the lowest paid occupations — janitorial, food preparation, non-professional health care, unskilled day labor, hotel, manufacturing and transportation. Immigrants have been recruited for the same jobs by Corporate America and its subsidiaries, who seek to increase their profits by establishing a permanent group of low-wage workers with no legal rights.

It is not difficult to understand why some African Americans perceive immigrants as “taking our jobs” and “lowering the standard of living for all workers.” African Americans were pushed out of some low-wage industries when they began organizing for better wages. Black tobacco workers in South Carolina were fired when they tried to organize. They were replaced with Latino migrant workers. Undocumented immigrants are super-exploited, forced to work for lower wages and in dangerous working conditions in order to survive. It is Big Business, not immigrants, that controls not only the job market but also government policies.

Why have millions of Mexican workers and others subjected themselves to life-threatening conditions to enter the U.S. to work? Andrew Christie, writing for the Sierra Club, notes that increased migration is caused by free-trade corporate globalization, which has resulted in financial and environmental degradation in less developed countries. The North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the “structural adjustments” required by World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans have caused greater poverty in Latin America, Africa and Asia than the development they have fostered. Immigrants are fleeing these conditions. They are trying to survive. Fair trade, instead of “free” trade policies and corporate greed, would decrease emigration and foster equitable, sustainable development worldwide.

Many African Americans are also trying to survive. As the U.S. de-industrialized and living-wage manufacturing jobs left for “right-to-work” (nonunion) states and then to foreign lands, African Americans have faced a future of low-wage service jobs with few benefits. With public education under attack, few Black students are being educated for skilled trades, high tech or professional jobs that have higher salaries. Black high school students in large cities have a dropout rate of more than 40 percent and college enrollment for Black males has plummeted.

But incarceration rates for Black males have been at crisis levels for over a decade. African Americans comprise 13 percent of the population but 50 percent of the prison population. Prisoners now make circuit boards, valves and fittings, eyeglasses, waterbeds and blue jeans. In California inmates booked vacations for TWA. One million African Americans are in jails nationwide. This is the new slavery. Latinos and whites comprise an additional million-plus prison inmates. Most ended up in prison because of illegal drugs.

The crack cocaine explosion was introduced to gangs in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s by the CIA to raise funds for its Contra War against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The drugs/guns network expanded the production and sale of drugs to every Black community throughout the country. The devastation of Black neighborhoods has been immense. The violent drugs/guns culture has infiltrated all culture — music, video games, clothing, film and language. The American dream has become an American nightmare for too many African American youth. They feel abandoned by government and society.

An immediate infusion of job training and living wage jobs is needed to turn this situation around. A national public works program to rebuild the inner cities of America must be proposed. Congress must be changed in 2006. A larger, stronger labor movement is needed to step up to the plate and build a coalition with all oppressed groups.

The immigrant rights movement has shown us the way: be vigilant and passionate in organizing your forces. African Americans must not let Corporate America win its game of divide and rule. African Americans understand criminalization, discrimination, isolation and separation. They must stand in solidarity with immigrant workers while standing up for their own civil and economic rights. Outreach is needed to build solidarity between the Latino and African American communities.

When oppressed groups cooperate, the entire working class benefits. Unity in California defeated Gov. Schwarzenegger’s anti-labor and anti-public service propositions. Unity saved King-Drew Hospital in Los Angeles. The 1983 election of Harold Washington as mayor of Chicago was the result of united forces of African Americans, Latinos and progressive whites. Only an all-peoples front can turn back the dangers we face at this historical time.

Rosita Johnson ( is a member of the People’s Weekly World editorial board.


Immigrant Rights Mobilization - Sunday, April 23
by via ADC Friday, Apr. 21, 2006 at 12:00 AM
12:00PM - Rally at Dolores Park (19th St. and Dolores St.) with diverse speakers and performers
2:00PM - March to SF Federal Building (Golden Gate Ave. between Larkin St. and Polk St.)
3:30/4:00PM - Rally at SF Federal Building

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
522 Valencia St San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 861-7444

SUN, APRIL 23, 2006

Community organizations, labor, students, and faith-based groups are organizing the Bay Area's largest mobilization for immigrant rights on Sunday, April 23.

Join us and bring your friends and family!

12:00PM - Rally at Dolores Park (19th St. and Dolores St.) with diverse speakers and performers
2:00PM - March to SF Federal Building (Golden Gate Ave. between Larkin St. and Polk St.)
3:30/4:00PM - Rally at SF Federal Building

Sponsored by: ACORN, AILA - Northern California Chapter, Aimee Allison, Oakland City Council Candidate District 2, Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee - San Francisco, American Friends Service Committee, Arab Beyond, Asian Health Services, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Avenues Project, Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC), California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, Catholic Charities CYO, Central American Resources Center (CARECEN), Chinese for Affirmative Action, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinjunworping, Comité de Padres Unidos, Critical Resistance, Day Worker Center of Mountain View, Deporten a la Migra, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), Filipino Community Center, Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Frente Farabundo Marti para Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), San Francisco, Grupo Quetzal/RPDG, Heads Up Collective, International Socialist Organization, Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, Japanese Community Youth Council, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Korean Community Center of the East Bay, La Raza Centro Legal, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Narika, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), National Lawyer’s Guild, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action, Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco Labor Council, Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), SF Day Labor Program, St. Peter's Housing Committee, The California Partnership, The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), VietUnity, Voluntarios de la Comunidad, World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime, Young Workers United

Flyers at Chinese English Spanish Tagalog Vietnamese

Contact: Sheila Chung, Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, 510-839-7598
add your comments


Vol. 70/No. 17 May 1, 2006
Detroit: workers fight firings for joining immigrant rights rally
Employees of Wolverine Packing win reinstatement

DETROIT—A victory was scored here when a group of meatpacking workers, fired for missing work to attend an immigrant rights rally, went back to work after winning reinstatement and full pay for lost time. Sixteen of 21 dismissed workers are now back on the job.

The fired workers, in their majority Mexican-born, had joined with other co-workers from the Wolverine Packing plant to take part in a 20,000-strong demonstration on March 27 calling for the legalization of undocumented immigrants. That action was one of dozens across the country that immigrant workers have carried out since early March to demand their rights.

“They didn’t fire us because we were lazy or for causing problems. They did it to try to intimidate us,” said Minerva Ramírez, one of the workers.

The week leading up to the march, said Ramírez, who works in the production department known as the steak room, a company supervisor walked around the department, taking down the names of those who planned to participate in the march. Many of the workers had been trying to get the time off, to no avail. Some even offered to work overtime or to come in on their days off to make up for the few hours they would be absent for the march, said Ramírez.

In an April 6 company statement, Wolverine general manager Jay Bonahoom said only a limited number of employees had been allowed to take the day off. Workers had been warned that all employees were expected to report for work the day of the protest unless they had been granted a personal day off, he said.

Many joined the march despite the threats, including 21 of the 30 or so workers in the steak room. “They never told us we would be fired,” Ramírez said. “I thought they would suspend us for three days and take away our bonus, like they have done other times.

“The government began this discussion about immigration, and we want to make sure that legalization becomes a reality, that it not be left as promises,” she said.

On March 27, demonstrators met at the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Mexicantown, a largely immigrant neighborhood in southwest Detroit, to march downtown. Many local businesses remained closed until 2:00 p.m. when the protest ended.

When they returned to work, Wolverine Packing officials prevented the 21 workers from entering the plant, told them they no longer had a job, and asked them to clean out their lockers. Ramírez said many of the lockers had already been broken into.

Ramírez, who has worked at Wolverine nearly six years, is the only one of those fired who has been employed directly by the company. The rest are temporary employees hired through an agency, Minutemen Staffing Co., even though most of them have worked at the packing plant for three years or more.

Wolverine Packing employs 350 workers in three plants in southeast Detroit. The majority of the workers are organized by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876. In an attempt to keep the workforce divided and weaken the union, the company hires temporary workers in the steak room, which is not organized by the union. The main plant across the street is unionized. The temporary workers have no benefits, paid vacation, or sick leave, and many have not received a wage increase in years, said Ramírez.

“Firing immigrant and undocumented workers when they stand up for human rights is a common tactic employed in the meatpacking industry,” said a UFCW April 13 statement in response to the firings at Wolverine. “It’s a way to maintain a frightened and intimidated workforce.” The union condemned the “shameful and punitive bill” passed by the House of Representatives in December because it “would criminalize undocumented workers and anyone who assists them.”

The workers’ fight to win back their jobs received widespread media coverage. The story was reported in major newspapers and television networks in the United States and internationally, especially after the April 9-10 immigrant rights mobilizations, when a number of fired workers fought for reinstatement at several other workplaces around the country. It was covered by, among others, the Spanish-language TV network Univisión, Radio Caracol in Colombia, Mexican radio stations, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

In face of this widespread publicity and the workers’ refusal to simply accept their dismissal, the bosses caved in to the mounting pressure and on April 13 offered to reinstate all 21 workers with full back pay. Company officials claimed there had been some confusion about “the notification and ramifications of missing work on March 27th.”

Wolverine said, however, that it would require Minutemen Staffing Co. to “recheck employment documentation before sending individuals back to work.” Bonahoom said he was concerned about news reports suggesting that some of the workers were undocumented. In earlier statements, he had said that as far as Wolverine knew, the workers were documented.

By April 18, Ramírez and 15 others were back on the job. She reported that when an initial group walked into the plant April 17, they were welcomed by co-workers with comments like “We are winning this battle!” The workers also submitted a letter to the company with a list of demands including three weeks back pay, a bilingual personnel office employee, and a review of pay scales every six months with increases based on length of service.


Vol. 70/No. 17 May 1, 2006
U.S. bosses try to victimize workers demonstrating for immigrant rightsBY BRIAN WILLIAMS

The unprecedented mobilizations across the United States April 9-10 demanding legal status for immigrants demonstrated the growing willingness among foreign-born workers to stand up for their right to live and work without fear of firing or deportation. Faced with hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide taking the day off or leaving the job early to join rallies, most affected employers either just closed for the day or settled for lower production. Tyson Foods, for example, shut down about 10 of its 100 plants on April 10.

In some cases bosses tried to victimize employees who demonstrated for immigrant rights, then often backed down as the result of protests. A few hundred have been fired from their jobs in factories, restaurants, banks, and other workplaces. The New York Times reported April 15 that the owners of one unidentified factory in Wisconsin reinstated 200 workers the bosses had dismissed. The turnaround came after march organizers “met with the employers, discussed the significance of the protests and threatened to identify the companies publicly,” the Times article said.

In Tyler, Texas, located about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, more than 2,000 people rallied April 10 on the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice. “It was historic, we’d never had a protest like that before in Tyler,” rally organizer and attorney Jose Sanchez told the Militant. He said he had been inspired to initiate the action after John Tyler High School students had organized a walkout and march downtown in late March, and students at Stewart Middle School followed suit on April 7.

The bosses at Benchmark Manufacturing in nearby Lindale fired a third of the workforce of about 60 after workers joined the march, but claimed in a statement that the discharges were for violating “company policy” requiring phoning when absent.

“We told the boss that we were going to the march and they never said we would lose our jobs,” said María Rodríguez, one of the 22 fired workers. “Before, even if you didn’t call in, the worst you’d get is a written reprimand. But this time they had applicants coming in even as they were walking us out. We asked if we’d been fired, but they said ‘laid off.’ I can’t tell the difference.”

Another rally in Tyler to demand legal status for immigrants is planned for April 30. It will be an opportunity to put pressure on the company to hire back the fired Benchmark workers, said Sanchez. “It needs to be an issue at the rally.”

In Houston, six workers at the Mambo Seafood restaurant were fired for participating in the April 10 march there. In response, protesters rallied outside the restaurant April 14 demanding that the dismissed workers be rehired.

In Madison, Wisconsin, bosses at a few small businesses suspended or fired workers for attending the April 10 protests. Octopus Car Washes fired two workers at one of its three operations in town, but has pulled back from dismissing 10 others pending discussions with representatives of the April 10 Coalition. Owner Jeff Jurkens told the media he informed his employees they would not be disciplined for joining the march as long as their work shifts were covered. But only two of 12 workers came to work the day of the protest. Although company policy is “no show, no call, no job,” Jurkens backed off from firing all those absent that day after many of 100-plus callers to his company told him that if he abused immigrants they wouldn’t patronize his car wash anymore.

Divisions on May 1 boycott
More protests are planned across the country April 29-May 1. Some groups are organizing a “Day without an immigrant” on Monday, May 1. They’re calling on immigrant workers not to shop, work, or go to school, and to join May Day marches. Leading proponents of the May 1 boycott include the Los Angeles-based Mexican-American Political Association and the ANSWER coalition, an antiwar group.

Many of those who backed the April 10 actions, however, especially in and around the Democratic Party, are taking their distance. Cardinal Roger Mahony, who promoted earlier immigrant rights rallies in Los Angeles, is opposing walkouts on May Day. “Go to work. Go to school. And then join thousands of us at a major rally afterwards,” Mahony said in a statement.

Joel Foster of Somos America, a coalition that helped organize the April 10 rallies in Arizona, told the Arizona Republic that his group is promoting alternative actions, such as candlelight vigils.

The National Capital Immigrant Coalition in Washington, which helped organize the half-million-strong rally there, held a press conference in D.C. April 19 to distance itself from the boycott. Representatives of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, National Council of La Raza, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, Casa de Maryland, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, also took part.

“This is something we need to take very seriously, and consider all the repercussions of not doing it right or of creating a backlash,” said Jaime Contreras, president of the capital coalition and chairman of a Service Employees International Union local there. “It’s premature to do the boycott May 1.”

Contreras and others said they’ll call rallies on May 1 after work or school.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been informing its Midwest locals that the union supports the immigrant workers’ cause for legalization but what UFCW members do on May 1 is their “personal decision.”

Edwin Fruit in Des Moines, Iowa; Steve Warshell in Houston; Michael Italie in New York; and Sam Manuel in Washington contributed to this article.


Immigration “Reform” Bill Must Not Violate Privacy, Say ACLU and AFL-CIO; Urge Reforms to Protect All Workers in America (4/20/2006)


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO said today that any immigration reform Congress considers must not violate workers’ privacy through an intrusive, bureaucratic Employment Eligibility Verification System. The Senate is expected to address immigration when it returns next week from its Easter recess.

“Too much of the debate over immigration reform has ignored one of the greatest threats to our privacy,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The proposed employer verification system would require Americans, regardless of citizenship, to get a ‘permission slip to work’ from the government. If Congress wants to reform immigration, then it should, but it shouldn’t use this legislation as a clandestine means to subvert our constitutional right to privacy.”

“Unfortunately, proposals currently before Congress do not address the real issue, which is the incentive to exploit workers--both US and native born,” said Jon Hiatt, AFL CIO General Counsel. “Instead, they contemplate a large expansion of electronic verification systems, which have already been tested, and have proven to be detrimental to workers.”

The EEVS would require - for the first time - all workers to obtain a federal agency’s permission to work, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. It would create two massive government databases containing the most sensitive personal information on every lawful resident. Every worker would be registered in the two systems with data files tracking every job they ever sought or held. The two systems combine that information with substantial amounts of personally identifiable information, all keyed to a person’s Social Security number.

All employers would be required to participate in a national employment eligibility verification program in an expansion of the faulty but voluntary “Basic Pilot” program. However, no proposals have been brought forth to provide for a secure system; making it likely that the EEVS system would be a ripe target for identity thieves.

The Government Accountability Office estimated implementation costs at $11.7 billion annually, a large share of which would be borne by businesses. In addition to the ACLU and the AFL-CIO, the conservative Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have expressed strong objections to the employment verification provisions.


ACLU Testimony Before the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations Regarding Censorship At the Borders (3/28/2006)

Statement of Caroline Fredrickson ~ Director, Washington Legislative Office
American Civil Liberties Union

Before the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations
Committee on Government Reform / United States House of Representatives

Concerning Setting Post-9/11 Investigative Priorities at the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
March 28, 2006

Chairman Shays and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, and its hundreds of thousands of activists, members and fifty-three affiliates nationwide, I am pleased to appear before you today to present our views on excluding people from this country based on their political beliefs.

You invited me here to help this committee understand how the resources of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be used more effectively in the interest of national security. As part of that discussion, I will address how we believe DHS and the Department of State have resurrected the discredited practice of ideological exclusion – the practice of denying visas to non-citizens whose politics the government disfavors. Ideological exclusion can occur either when an individual is excluded under a law that is itself directed at ideology, or when a law that is ideology neutral is used to exclude someone with particular ideas. In my testimony, I will focus on one provision of law directed at ideology about which we are particularly concerned (which I will call the ideological exclusion provision), and discuss the federal government's exclusion of Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and arguably the most prominent and respected European scholar of the Muslim world.

In 2001, through the USA Patriot ACT, Congress added to the list of aliens ineligible to receive visas those who have used their "position of prominence within any country to persuade others to support terrorist activity or a terrorist organization, in a way that the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities." Through the REAL ID Act, the ideological exclusion provision now renders inadmissible any alien who has "endorse [d] or espouse [d] terrorist activity or persuade [d] others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization."

While the ideological exclusion provision is ostensibly directed at those who support terrorism, news reports suggest that the government has invoked the provision to exclude and stigmatize prominent critics of U.S. foreign policy – individuals who may have never supported terrorism and in some cases have vocally opposed it, such as Professor Ramadan.

It is our view that it is contrary to fundamental American values regarding freedom of expression, as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, for the administration to suppress the exchange of ideas between Americans and people of different national origins and different beliefs simply because they are different. "Ideological exclusion" is a term of art but its impact is real. The federal government is excluding people to prevent American citizens and residents from participating in conferences or exchanges of ideas with people whose ideas the administration dislikes. I respectfully submit to this committee that attempting to suppress constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of association is not an effective use of ICE resources, nor is it in the best interest of national security.

The ideological exclusion provision has compromised and continues to compromise the interests of U.S. citizens and residents. By regulating, stigmatizing, and suppressing lawful speech, the provision skews and impoverishes academic and political debate inside the United States. It creates artificial barriers between people of our nation and other nations. It deprives Americans of information and debates they need to make responsible and informed decisions about matters of political importance.

The USA Patriot Act changed the law in this area to prevent the entry of nationals of other countries who have used their "position of prominence within any country to endorse or to espouse terrorist activity, or to persuade others to support terrorist activity or a terrorist organization, in a way that the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities." Our client, Professor Ramadan, does not endorse, espouse, or persuade others to support terrorism, and he has never done so. To the contrary, he has been a consistent and vocal critic of both terrorism and those who use it.

The ACLU recently filed litigation challenging the exclusion of Tariq Ramadan and the ideological exclusion provision itself. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the American Association of University Professors, American Academy of Religion, and the PEN American Center, all of which have invited Professor Ramadan to speak in the United States in the upcoming months. They are all being deprived of the opportunity to meet with him, hear his views and engage in debate.

The government revoked Professor Ramadan's visa under the ideological exclusion provision in 2004, preventing him from becoming a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame, a prominent Catholic university. Until recently, Professor Ramadan lawfully visited the United States to lecture, attend conferences, and meet with other scholars. In August 2004, however, the administration revoked his nonimmigrant visa under the Patriot Act amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act. The revocation prevented Professor Ramadan from teaching at the University of Notre Dame and more generally from lecturing, attending conferences, and meeting with scholars and other residents in the United States.

Professor Ramadan's scholarship—publishing more than 20 books and 700 articles on issues such as democracy, human rights, and Islam—resulted in Time Magazine naming him one of the most influential people for the 21st Century: "the leading Islamic thinker among Europe's second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants." After September 11, he publicly condemned the attacks, telling fellow Muslims, "Now more than ever we need to criticize some of our brothers [in faith and say] ‘You are unjustified if you use the Koran to justify murder.'" While he has been critical of some U.S. policies, he has never endorsed or supported terrorism. After his U.S. visa was revoked, he was invited by staunch American ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair to join a government taskforce to examine the roots of extremism in the U.K.

The Bush administration's decision to exclude Professor Ramadan stifles intellectual exchange about Islam and the Muslim world at a time when robust dialogue and debate about America's international policies and commitment to freedom and peace are of extraordinary importance to our nation's future. Unfortunately, this is not the first time our country has limited our First Amendment freedoms, but Congress should take this opportunity to re-examine this policy and its adverse effect on our people and our reputation.

It is widely acknowledged that during the Cold War, both Republican and Democratic administrations used our immigration laws to exclude prominent artists and intellectuals who disagreed with administration policy. I think it is fair to say that these artists did not represent any danger to our national security, any threat to the physical security of the American people. History demonstrates that they were excluded simply because the federal government wanted to prevent U.S. citizens and residents from meeting with them and hearing their ideas. The following list gives just a small sample of those scholars, writers, journalists and political figures who were excluded from the United States for ideological reasons since the early days of the Cold War:

1952 PIERRE TRUDEAU (Later to become Prime Minister of Canada)
1953 JAN MYRDAL (Author)
1957 YVES MONTAND (Actor, Singer)
1962 GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ (Novelist, Nobel Laureate)
1966 PABLO NERUDA (Poet, Nobel Laureate)
1969 DORIS LESSING (Novelist)
1971 OSCAR NIEMEYER (Architect)
1980 DARIO FO (Playwright, Nobel Laureate) and FRANCA RAME (Actress)
1982 GENSUIKYO (Japanese Antinuclear Group) and GYOTSU SATO (Buddhist Monk, Leader of Gensuikyo)
ANGEL RAMA (Scholar)
1983 NINO PASTI (Former NATO Deputy Supreme Commander, Former Italian Senator)
HORTENSIA BUSSI DE ALLENDE (Widow of Chilean President Salvador Allende)
1984 MARITZA RUIZ (Leader of El Salvador's Comadres)
1985 FARLEY MOWAT (Novelist)
1986 CHOICHIRO YATANI (Professor)
PATRICIA LARA (Journalist)
1990 JIM HUNTER (Union Leader)
2002 JOHN CLARKE (Organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty)
2003 TOKYO SEXWALE and SIDNEY MUFAMADI (African National Congress Activists) plus CARLOS ALZUGARAY TRETO (Scholar, Former Ambassador to the European Union)
2004 TARIQ RAMADAN (Scholar, Author) and 61 CUBAN SCHOLARS
2005 DORA MARIA TELLEZ (Scholar, Former Nicaraguan Minister of Health)
FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ (Human Rights Lawyer)

At the end of the Cold War, the Immigration Act of 1990 eliminated the ideological exclusion provision regarding visitors to this country. But in 2001 the Patriot Act reinstated the power to exclude visitors based on their views, although ostensibly now limited to support of terrorism. The exclusion of Professor Ramadan demonstrates that the provision is being construed broadly to deny entry to people who are not suspected terrorists and do not support terrorism, but who disagree with U.S. policies.

Before the passage of the USA Patriot Act, these ideological exclusions were not based on claims of espousing terrorism but on the even more ambiguous provision dating back to 1952 allowing for the exclusion of foreign nationals who espoused "subversive" ideas.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952 (also known as the McCarran-Walter Act) was a law passed by the United States Congress restricting immigration into the United States. It came into being despite strong disagreement between President Harry Truman and the House and the Senate. Truman in fact vetoed an earlier version of the McCarran-Walter Act, which he regarded as "un-American" and discriminatory.

The fact is that the provision expanded upon by the Patriot Act was born of the ignoble era in which Joseph McCarthy's red-baiting flourished until it was rejected by Congress for its deplorable smear tactics, guilt by association, and chilling of fundamental First Amendment freedoms. It is one thing to exclude terrorists and al-Qaeda operatives, and another to return to allowing the federal government to bar people who criticize U.S. policy. This is certainly reminiscent of McCarthyism. The exclusion provision was promoted by Attorney General John Ashcroft who suggested quite infamously that anyone who criticized the Patriot Act was aiding terrorists. Mr. Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists." His comments were rightly condemned by the Senate Judiciary Committee members and the press.

As Edward R. Murrow so eloquently stated: "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof. We must remember that Americans are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular." I think we would do well to remember that sentiment, at a time like this.

Larry McMurtry, author of the "Brokeback Mountain" screenplay that won an Academy Award, spoke in a similar vein when he testified on behalf of PEN American Center in May 1989 before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Administrative Justice of the House Judiciary Committee. He said: "We believe that the ideological-exclusion provisions of the McCarran-Walter Act serve no useful purpose and cause inexcusable damage to individual rights and to the ability of the United States to champion the cause of individual liberties around the world." That remains true today.

Therefore, while we await a ruling from the U.S. District Court in Professor Ramadan's case, we are pursuing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn more about the administration's use of this provision to deny admission to other scholars.

The ACLU filed the FOIA request in March 2005 to gather more information about the government's use of the Patriot Act's ideological exclusion provision as well as the government's practice of ideological exclusion more generally -- a practice that has led to the recent exclusion of Dora María Telléz, a Nicaraguan scholar who had been offered a position at Harvard University. Ms. Telléz was a leader in the 1979 movement that overthrew Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, and due to the denial of a U.S. visa, she was forced to turn down a position as the Robert F. Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies at Harvard University. She had traveled to the United States several times in the past on personal visits and business trips, and said she was shocked when officials told her she was denied entry because of supposed involvement with terrorism.

Similarly, in October 2004, 61 Cuban scholars, who were scheduled to attend the Latin American Studies Association's international congress, were denied entry less than two weeks before the congress convened. According to the State Department, the denials were in keeping with the Bush administration goal of hastening a democratic transition in Cuba. Back in 2002, John Clarke, an organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, was stopped at the customs booth at the U.S.-Canada border while on his way to a speaking engagement in Michigan. After officials checked his identification, Clarke was asked if he was opposed to the "ideology of the United States." Officials then searched his car and Clarke was forced to wait until a State Department agent drove up from Detroit to interrogate him. He was turned away after five hours.

These are just a few of a growing number of examples. When the government complies with our FOIA request, we will undoubtedly learn of more such cases. In November 2005, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to enforce our FOIA request. The case is pending and the ACLU has only received some of the documents it requested.

It is the ACLU's view that the State Department and other government agencies are illegally withholding records concerning the practice of excluding foreign scholars and other prominent intellectuals from the United States because of their political views. We believe strongly that the right to hear a full range of ideas and opinions is a vital part of American democracy. It is part of the vision of American in promoting the virtues of democracy abroad. Our government should not be in the business of censoring ideas.

Freedom of expression and association are bedrock American values. Eight-seven years ago Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes captured these values in the metaphor of a "marketplace of ideas." As Justice Holmes wrote: "But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment."

It is a fundamental tenet of our society that protecting free expression of ideas in our democracy outweighs any theoretical benefit of censorship. And the ideological exclusion of scholars from this country based on their beliefs—not based on any proof of aiding terrorists—is a physical embodiment of censorship. It is a censorship that deprives our people of dialogue with those whose views may be different but whose views may make our people more tolerant of others and make others more understanding of our culture and American ideals. The Supreme Court affirmed the right to receive ideas. The Court wrote in 1972: "It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail … it is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral, and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here. That right may not constitutionally be abridged …"

During the heyday of the House Un-American Activities Committee, countless Americans were blacklisted. And the State Department blacklisted foreign nationals for their political beliefs as well. Blacklisting now seems to be in vogue, but this time it's not the State Department and it's not about communism. It's ICE and it does not even appear to be focused on the letter of the law as amended by the Patriot Act. Our precious anti-terrorism resources, including those of ICE, should be focused on preventing another attack - not on arbitrarily or capriciously excluding people who pose no threat to our government, no threat to our people.


The suppression of speech on the basis of its content is not made consistent with American values simply because the government is using immigration law, rather than some other mechanism, as the instrument of censorship. To the contrary, every court to confront the issue squarely has held that the content of a visitor's speech cannot by itself supply a legitimate and bona fide reason for exclusion. And it's not just contrary to our values as a nation; it's simply not effective to pursue a policy of censorship at our borders as a matter of national priority and national security.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue today.

Silent Civil Rights Groups
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Author's note: Since this article was written, the NAACP has issued a statement opposing the Sensenbrenner bill and their CEO Bruce Gordon marched in L.A. in a pro immigrant rally.

Immigrant rights activism is spreading nationwide, but why aren't old-guard civil rights groups joining the cause?

The great irony in the gargantuan march of hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles and other cities for immigrant rights is that the old civil rights groups have been virtually mute on the explosively growing movement. There are no position papers, statements or press releases on the Web sites of the NAACP, Urban League or SCLC on immigration reform, and nothing on the marches.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) hasn't done much better. It has issued mostly perfunctory, tepid and cautious statements opposing the draconian provisions of the House bill that passed last December. The Sensenbrenner bill calls for a wall on the Southern border, a massive beef-up in border security and tough sanctions on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. The Senate Judiciary Committee will wrestle with the bill this week.

Only nine of 43 CBC members initially backed the liberal immigration reform bill introduced by CBC member Sheila Jackson Lee in 2004. The lone exception to the old guard's mute response on immigration-related issues was their lambasting of Mexican President Vicente Fox last May for his quip that Mexicans will work jobs that even blacks won't.

The silence from mainstream civil rights groups and the CBC's modest support for immigrant rights is a radical departure from the past. During the 1980s, when immigration was not the hot-button issue it is today, the Caucus in 1985 staunchly opposed tougher immigration proposals, voted against employer sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants and opposed an English-language requirement to attain legalization. That was an easy call then. Those were the Reagan years, and Reagan and conservative Republicans, then as now, pushed the bill. Civil rights leaders and black Democrats waged low-yield wars against Reagan policies.

In 2002, the NAACP made a slight nod to the immigration fight when it invited Hector Flores, president of League of United Latin American Citizens, to address its convention. The NAACP billed the invite as a "historic first." But it was careful to note that immigration was one of a list of policy initiatives the two groups would work together on. That list included support for affirmative action, expanded hate crimes legislation, voting rights protections and increased health and education funding. There is no indication that the two groups have done much together since the convention to tackle these crisis issues, and that includes immigration reform.

The CBC and civil rights leaders tread lightly on the immigrant rights battle for two reasons. They are loath to equate the immigrant rights movement with the civil rights battles of the 1960s. They see immigrant rights as a reactive, narrow, single-issue movement whose leaders have not actively reached out to black leaders and groups. Spanish language newspapers and radio stations, for instance, drove the mammoth march and rally in Los Angeles. Their fiery appeals to take action were in Spanish, and many of the marchers waved Mexican and El Salvadorian flags.

Black leaders also cast a nervous glance over their shoulder at the shrill chorus of anger rising from many African-Americans, especially the black poor, of whom a significant number flatly oppose illegal immigrant rights. But illegal immigration is not the prime reason so many poor young blacks are on the streets, and why some turn to gangs, guns and drug dealing to get ahead. A shrinking economy, sharp state and federal government cuts in and elimination of job and skills training programs, failing public schools, a soaring black prison population and employment discrimination are the prime causes of the poverty crisis in many inner city black neighborhoods. The recent studies by Princeton, Columbia and Harvard researchers on the dreary plight of young black males reconfirmed that chronic unemployment has turned thousands of young black males into America's job untouchables.

Yet, many blacks soft-target illegal immigrants for the crisis and loudly claim that they take jobs from unskilled and marginally skilled blacks. Black fury over immigration has cemented an odd alliance between black anti-immigrant activists and GOP conservatives, fringe anti-illegal immigration groups and racially tinged America-first groups.

Historians, politicians and civil rights activists hail the March on Washington in August 1963 as the watershed event in the civil rights movement. It defined an era of protest, sounded the death knell for the near century of legal segregation and challenged Americans to make racial justice a reality for blacks. But the estimated million that marched and held rallies for immigrant rights in Los Angeles and other cities dwarfed the numbers at the March on Washington. If the numbers and passion that immigration reform stirs mean anything, the judgment of history will be that it also defined an era, sounded the death knell for discrimination against immigrants and challenged Americans to make justice and equality a reality for immigrants, both legal and illegal.

The battle over immigrant rights will be fought as fiercely and doggedly as the civil rights battle of the 1960s. That battle forever altered the way Americans look at race. The immigrants rights battle will profoundly alter the way Americans look at immigrants. The silence of civil rights leaders won't change that. But there is no better time than now to end that silence.

Editor's Note: Since the publication of this article, the NAACP has issued a statement opposing the Sensenbrenner bill and their CEO Bruce Gordon marched in L.A. in a pro-immigrant rally.

This article was originally published on March 28, 2006. Reprinted with permission from Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
About The Author: Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Crisis in Black and Black, published by Middle Passage Press.
Email: + #323-296-6331

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