Monday, January 30, 2006

Growing Hope: Building a Movement of Change

by Colin Rajah reporting from Caracas, Venezuela

Have I mentioned that this is NNIRR's 4th direct participation in the WSF? One would assume that we would be "World Social Forumed-out" by now. But there is something different this time, a growing energy, a building strength, a burning hope that change CAN and WILL come about.

Maybe its the growing recognition (finally!) that immigrants face some of the worse oppressions in this dominant economic paradigm, and that this only develops the inner strenght in our communities as we fight back and continue to build healthy, sustainable and just economies.

The numerous workshops and panels NNIRR and our members were invited to speak at, is an indicator of this. Whether it was Luckner Millien (from the FL Farmworkers Association) giving testimony about being in a detention camp and being deported to Haiti to hundreds at the US Oppression workshop, or Susan Alva (NNIRR board member) presenting analysis on migration policies at a panel on Overcoming the Neoliberal Economy, or Joycelyn Campbell (from Domestic Workers United) describing how they are abused by their employers and how they've fought back, these are living testimonies the struggles faced by immigrant communities not just oppress but empower us.

At NNIRR's own workshop, not only Luckner's and Joyce's testimonies, but also that of Chayya Chhoum (CAAAV), Chris Punongbayan (FAA), Greg Simons (CHIRLA), Mari Rose Taruc (APEN), Genaro Lopez-Rendon (SWU) and other diverse immigrant communities in the US, alongside those from Peruvian refugees in Argentina, indigenous migrants from Colombia, and Ecudorian migrants from Central America, speak courageous words to the worlwide oppression imposed by an economic and militaristic force. And yet, we're not victims, not mere survivors, but we are organizing growing movements of change that are converging here.

Venezuela itself creates cause for hope. The new National ID might seem an imposition on civil liberties to those of us in the US, it is in actuality a broad amnesty program to provide documentation to undocumented migrants here, and along with that, the rights and privileges equal to any other Venezuelan citizen. With immigration accounting for about 80% of the new population growth, and about 90% of the numerous street vendors here being migrants from Colombia and other neighboring regions, it is no doubt that this will enable migrant to go beyond the underground economy and into more sustainable livelihoods, while having recognized and enforced rights.

And if thats not enough to create some hope, then consider this latest development that has just emerged out of a series of meetings and exchanges in here the past couple of days. A mass northward mobilization of indigenous and other peoples from around Latin America, converging with a mobilization of immigrant and other communities from North America (led by GGJ and its members organizations including NNIRR), at the US-Mexico border this May, with popular actions at the border wall, and a border social forum, all involving tens of thousands of people! At the press conference to annouce this, Susan and Ruben Solis (from NNIRR's ally organization, Southwest Workers Union) described how while immigration policies have been increasingly repressive, for many years there have been growing mobilizations to reclaim and tear down the inhumane borders. And this is the opportunity we've been waiting for! Keep posted here and at for more developments on this soon...

Meanwhile, we leave here with this hope. While things just seem to get worse and worse on the surface, there is a powerful undercurrent as we build monumental movements across the Americas and the world that will bring about significant social change. The time seems to be coming and immigrant communities are poised to be at the forefront of these.

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