By Raymond R. Beltran
Immigrant rights activists are calling for a second round of May 1st protests next month to, one, mark the one year anniversary of the first ‘Day Without an Immigrant’ boycotts and, two, to put an end to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations that have recently caused panic in the immigrant community.
Members of the City College based group Si Se Puede, which is an umbrella group for a variety of activist organizations, are planning to unite groups, but some ask if their hopes are too high in uniting the numbers seen a year ago.
“It’s important to remember that today, a year from those marches, the atmosphere is very different,” said David Schmidt of the Mexican American Political Alliance. “We do not have the Sensenbrenner Bill … we do not have that to rally around. But, we’re living in an atmosphere that has much more fear in it this year.”
Last year, the Sensenbrenner Bill was highly opposed by the Latino community because it would have automatically made felons out of any person living in the U.S. without documentation, many of which in San Diego are merely agricultural and service labor.
Today, organizers say the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcements operations, known as Return to Sender, that led to the arrest of 359 undocumented (mostly non-criminal) immigrants have again outraged the Latino community and that it’s time, once again, to awaken the Sleeping Giant.
The May 1 march they’re planning, which lands on a Tuesday, will be in demand of three things: to stop the raids, to denounce a guest worker program and legalization for all undocumented immigrants.
Avery Ware of Si Se Puede says that what their asking is no different than when former mayor, Nick Inzunza, declared National City a sanctuary for immigrants. The City of Chicago, a highly Latino populated area, did the same in 2005. They also align their demands with those of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusettes who denounced the recent immigration raids.
“People who work here should have the right to stay in their country of origin,” said Si Se Puede organizer Elva Salinas, a professor of Chicano Studies at San Diego City College.
Salinas says that legislation that is being introduced, such as Securtiy Through Regularized Imigration and a Vibrant Economy, or STRIVE, proposed by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), creates a guest worker program that is not far from the bracero program that Latino and Asian migrants worked through in the early 20th century, where living and working conditions were inhumane.
Organizers also want to call attention to the economic relationship between U.S. businesses that are allowed to enter Latin America through the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing that electronic and textile businesses have a free pass through the border than do the workers who produce the products sold in the U.S.
“People are confused,” Salinas says. “The laws that we have right now are not really based on human rights. We have separation of families.”
“That’s why we’re for legalization for all,” said Avery Ware of Si Se Puede. “That’s just updating the conditions of the labor so that the labor market can stand a chance in globalization, conditions won’t be pushed over backwards, which will be the case for workers on both sides of the border unless there’s legalization.”
MAPA organizer, Schmidt, says that what the 2006 marches did was not only help to disinflate the wheels that were speeding HR 4437 into passing, but it also gave the Latino community strength in solidarity.
“As human beings, we can stand up for our dignity and we can stand up for our rights,” Schmidt said at a press conference this week.
Unlike last year, organizers say they are not asking people to not work, but they said, ultimately, students and workers will refrain from going to school if they believe in the demands being made.
The opposition led to a historical record number of protestors in late March, from student walkouts to nationally united marches, and those were followed by an economic boycott on May 1 called ‘Day Without an Immigrant,’ where migrants were urged to refrain from shopping completely for a 24 hour period to show the results of what would happen to the economy had the immigrants returned to their native country.