Thursday, May 03, 2007

Statement of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights On May 1, 2007 - International Workers Day

Statement of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

On May 1, 2007 - International Workers Day

Fair & Just Legalization with Equality, Justice & Liberty

For all immigrant and native-born workers, families and communities

Stop the Raids and Deportations

End Migrant Deaths at the Border

Uphold Our Human, Civil, Labor and Economic Rights

Millions of working class people, lead by immigrant workers, families and communities, are filling the streets of the United States and the world on May 1, International Workers Day, celebrated in almost every country of the industrialized world.

Today, in addition to demanding living wages and an eight-hour day, immigrant workers, along with their partners and allies, are demanding for an end to all immigration raids, detentions and deportations. Immigration raids and deportations shatter families, traumatize communities and result in gross violations of our labor, civil and human rights.

Since the historic May 1, 2006, millions of voices more today are again calling fair and just legalization that protects everyone's civil, social and labor rights with liberty, equality and justice.

The May 1 marches in the U.S. continue in the fine tradition of International Workers' Day, which began in the United States after years of workers' demanding and organizing for an eight-hour workday, living wages and other improvements for the working class. The original movement was also led by immigrant workers and culminated in a nationwide strike on May 1, 1886, where Chicago was at the epicenter of the demand for an eight-hour day. On May 4, 1886, at a rally held in the Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest a police attack on strikers, police surrounded the workers' protest. A bomb exploded, killing one police and wounding others. Then, police opened fire against the peaceful assembly and killed many workers. The repression did not stop. The police went on the offensive and went into Chicago working class neighborhoods, breaking into homes, arresting and hurting more leaders, attempting to intimidate and break the movement's will to win.

Today, the immigrant rights movement stands together with all workers, their families and communities, calling for legalization that does not violate labor rights, that does not divide and destroy families and communities, and helps end the exploitation of all workers.

Legalization and Workers' Rights

One-hundred and twenty-one years later, immigrant workers are again at the forefront demanding just wages, health, education, social services, housing, safety, democracy, freedom from fear, for peace, an end to racial, ethnic, nationality and religious discrimination, and a new relationship between citizens and non-citizens, immigrants and non-immigrants, foreign-born and native-born workers.

Millions of voices today are demanding an end to the immigration raids, economic exploitation and other human rights abuses and violations perpetrated against millions of documented and undocumented workers. This includes:

  • Foreign- and native-born workers and people of color, who call for end to all discrimination and exploitation in the workplace and demand living wages and safe working conditions;
  • Indigenous peoples who have been forced into migration because they have lost their lands and had their communities shattered by "free" trade;
  • Day laborers, domestic workers, farm-workers, janitors, truck-drivers, street vendors, local community-owned stores, day care workers, nannies, youth, students and others who are subjected to violence and harassment for seeking employment and education;
  • LGBTQ people whose families are kept apart and harassed and oppressed because of their sexual orientation and gender identities;
  • The unemployed; those jailed and imprisoned;
  • The hundreds of thousands of families broken apart by deportations and the disappearance of their loved ones at the border; and the thousands of migrant dead recovered and thousands more disappeared at the border and in the interior as a result of exploitation and oppression.

All permitted by the U.S. government, whose unjust immigration laws, policies, practices and services and enforcement are the root cause and fuel the anti-immigrant climate, police and hate violence, making immigrants even more vulnerable to violations and abuse.

Immigration laws and proposals have become the pretext and cover for some of the worst anti-worker laws and attacks, where other workers, immigrants, are being scapegoated for the ills impacting U.S. workers, especially workers of color. Immigrants, especially the undocumented and immigrants of color, are blamed for the impoverishment and exploitation of people of color, for the lack of economic opportunities for African Americans, and for the deterioration of schools, services and the violence and conflicts that pervade working class communities.

While the official laws, policies and practices of the U.S. government that promote and defend privatization and cutbacks, including elimination, of education, health and social services, the bloated and growing war and military budget, corporate tax breaks and subsidies, tax exemptions and tax-free rides for the rich and filthy rich, are all left of the hook, blameless.

At the same time, immigration services and enforcement are further cemented to the politics and policies of national security and the "war on terrorism." The pending proposals in Congress continue offering more militarization of border and immigration control, qualitatively increasing the number of interior and border immigration police, building more prison bed space exclusively for immigrants and bracero-style guest worker programs and meager legalization that includes stiff fines with a maze of rules and obstacles that will make it nearly impossible for anyone, except for a small fraction, to qualify.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, the interior immigration police, under the Department of Homeland Security) is carrying our brutal raids, trampling the due process rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens, traumatizing families and shattering communities, workplaces and neighborhoods. Thousands are being deported from interior cities and the border, suffering whole scale violation of their rights.

The ICE raids are calculated political attacks meant to terrorize and intimidate immigrants, especially the undocumented, from asserting their rights. The Department of Homeland Security promotes more enforcement and guest worker programs as the solution, never mind the immense backlog and demand for family reunification.

At the U.S.-Mexico border, official national security policies and border control strategies force migrants to risk their lives if they cross unauthorized. Hundreds of thousands are deported with little or no regard for their rights. Since this "prevention through deterrence" strategy was extended to the entire border beginning in 1994, some 5,000 migrant dead have been recovered; countless more are missing or disappeared in the desert and mountainous regions of Arizona,where over half of all the migrant deaths occur. Border Patrol violence and violations of the rights of migrants, communities, Indigenous peoples and workers at the border are rampant.

What We Want: Fair and Just Immigration Reform

Fair and just immigration reform means:

  • Genuine legalization and opportunities to adjust status for all undocumented immigrants, including youth and farm workers;
  • Preservation, restoration and expansion of due process rights and access to the courts;
  • No indefinite detention or expansion of mandatory detention
  • No expansion of guest worker programs
  • No more wasted resources allocated to further militarize our borders is the root cause of the crisis of human rights and lives in the border regions
  • An end to employer sanctions and electronic worker verification systems
  • The strengthening and enforcement of labor law protections for all workers, native and foreign born
  • No use of city, state, federal police and other government agencies in the enforcement of immigration laws;
  • No more criminalization of immigrants, or their service providers
  • Expansion of legal immigration opportunities, support for family reunification and immediate processing of the backlog of pending visa applications
  • Elimination of harsh obstacles to immigrating, including the HIV ban, "3 and 10 year bars," and high income requirements for immigrant sponsors.

On May Day 2007, workers on the streets and in the workplace are dreaming a different type of citizenship, one that promotes dignity, justice, liberty and protects our human, civil, and labor rights. Any legalization program must strengthen and protect our rights, ensuring that all foreign- and native-born workers and families can live, work, worship, study and play in healthy and stable community.

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