Rallying for Immigrant Rights

Fed up with Congress and frustrated with President Barack Obama’s brief mention of immigration reform in the State of the Union address, immigrant rights supporters are now organizing around the clock to push legislators to move on reform in 2010. It will not be an easy feat.

Congress is already bogged down with health care reform and a lingering economic crisis. While Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, immigration reform could be doomed for 2010 if it’s not introduced in the Senate by this Spring. Otherwise, it’s very unlikely that Congress will get around to debating the issue by the end of the year.

Aware of these bitter facts—and even more cognizant of the human rights abuses that will continue so long as the status quo is maintained—reform proponents are gearing up for a number of key battles to improve the immigration system.

La marcha

Born from dissatisfaction with Congress and Obama’s inability to deliver reform, organizers from around the country are preparing to march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. On March 21, the first day of Spring. The objective is to draw tens of thousands of immigrant rights supporters to Capitol Hill. As New America Media reports, March for America “will be a test of immigrant advocates’ organizing capacity and their increasing use of technology to stoke a popular groundswell on immigration.”

The march, which is organized by the Reform Immigration For America coalition, will also “bring together advocates focused on different parts of the immigration policy agenda,” including supporters of agricultural labor, better immigrant detention standards, and the DREAM Act, federal legislation that provide a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16.

While mainstream media coverage of the march has been relatively quiet, with many English-language outlets ignoring it completely, the organizing behind the scenes has been even more hush hush. This is a massive grassroots effort to raise public awareness around the country. Members from hundreds of state immigration groups are attending churches, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and organizing caravans to get people to Washington in March. Even mainstream Spanish-language outlets have gotten involved and encouraged their audiences to contact the Reform Immigration For America campaign for all the latest information.

Perhaps most refreshing is that unlike the immigration reform fight in 2007, which was plagued by a number of organizational hurdles, national immigration organizations in Washington have reached out to grassroots groups across the nation for the march. As Bill Chandler, an executive director for the Mississippi Immigrant’s Rights Alliance, told the National Radio Project recently, “The grassroots groups were left out of the discussion [in 2007] and what we’re trying to do is make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Speed bumps on the Trail of Dreams

While organizers are preparing for his month’s march, four young students are continuing a 1,500 mile trek on foot, dubbed the “Trail of Dreams,” in support of the DREAM Act. The students, three of whom are undocumented immigrants, started their journey on Jan 1. in Miami and are currently hiking through Georgia on their way to Washington, where they are expected to arrive in May. Along the way, they are educating people about how the DREAM Act would help kids like them.

Under current law, some of the walkers still face deportation, even though they were only children when their parents brought them into the United States. While the four students have encountered a lot of support from the communities that they’ve visited, they’ve also come across some ugly opposition. As AlterNet notes, a recent Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia “was timed to occur when the Trail of Dreams walkers were passing through the area,” and there was a “a stark difference between the messages of the two groups: one for tolerance and human rights, the other for hatred and racism.

Immigration Detention Abuses Continue

The Varick Federal Detention Facility, a privately-run immigration prison in New York city that was overseen by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, is closing and relocating approximately 250 of its inmates to a New Jersey lockup. As RaceWire reports, the move is “partially because of public pressure” since “Varick has a well-documented track record of detainee abuse and fatal medical negligence,” but “shutting down one facility doesn’t address the broader system.”

When immigration officials granted a media tour to The Nation shortly before the prison closed, reporter Jackie Stevens described the scene inside: “The dorms are packed with rows of narrow beds, fifty in all; the law library has dated resources; there is no privacy; and there is no natural light, ever.”

On top of that, even “the agents hosting the tour seemed embarrassed and emphasized the upcoming transfer as we looked through a long hall window at men slouching, feet on the floor, using their beds as backless chairs.” Varick is just one of many immigration detention facilities with documented abuses, and while the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that ultimately controls ICE,  has promised to reform the system, they have still refused to introduce any legally-binding regulations for detainee treatment.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

photo credit: thanks to alex-s via flickr for the pic
By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger


robert p.
robert p8 years ago

illegal is just that illegal. they are criminals against our country.no reform is needed, only enforcement of our current laws. illegals are forcing our country to poverty. thanks to that idiot reagan we are forced with this problem again. learn from the past. we need to put our foot down and protect our own.

Mervi R.
Mervi R8 years ago

Thanks for posting!

bob m.
bob m8 years ago

I'm no jumping jack for capitalism but I have heard bout the"Ameican dream" all my life. Not sure I get it but it seems this has been morphed into some wierd kind of entitlement on the part of the new generation of backdoor twisters of common law. Yes; it would be wonderful if things were improved round the world but by this marriage of "humble" invasion with make a buck morality is dangerously capable of creating a viral kind of balkenization that is not really a good idea. Who's on first? Better get that down before the game dies.

Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

I remember as a child, at our public pool and park, watching a young boy pick popcorn off the ground and eating it. I gave him my dime to get a bag of popcorn. He didn't want it at first but I insisted. He was thankful, and got his popcorn from the concession stand.

He tried helping himself. He did not steal it from anyone, or demand it be given to him NOW and damn everyone else. The wonderful feeling inside from helping someone, and yes I still do, and will. There are a lot of people to help, but we need to have them follow the laws in this country or else. Come here legally and will be happy to help you. And do NOT have 10 children you cannot afford. You then have no right to keep asking for handouts. If you are taking handouts, and continue having kids, just expecting MORE handouts, sorry. No can do.

Michael Grlmn
M G8 years ago

Well actually Lindsey, No i cant do that, i live in Ecuador and above that in one of the most dangerous city of this country.

However when somebody knocks on my door, telling me he is hungry, or asking me for water, i will provide what they need.

However if an american citizen, which you have quiet a lot here, want to grab himself a fresh coco which you get right from the trees here, or a mango, (resources of this country) yes, why would i want to prohibit this ?, the tree grows lots of them, if they dont pluck them they will fall on the streets and rot.

I cant eat them all alone, the tree isnt mine, it was given by GOD to and for THE PEOPLE, ( iguess thats a frase you like right ? )

The need you are talking about is MONEY!, which doesnt has any value at all.

Wasnt US not of the inidians ?, did not the US became a country of people emigrating from ITALY, HOLLAND, and or other countries ?

I can understand if you dont have a job, and you might think that it has been taken by any or whatever kind of immigrant.

However is that really true ? Does the immigrant gets a job as for example EXECUTIVE ?, dont think so.. ( you could if you studies )

Comon, love your fellow man, you feel so much better

ps: And i am not Ecuadorian ...

Lindsey O.
.8 years ago

Then, Michael, since you don't believe in 'borders', I assume that you leave your front door wide open for anyone who wishes to come in, take up residence, and use your utilities, food, and personal belongings. All of which you are paying for, of course. But since some of those people will obviously have a greater need than you do for those possessions, I'm sure you won't mind.

This is our country. And no one has the right to cross its borders absent our permission. Just as the Mexican government is quite adamant about no one crossing its own borders without permission.

Michael Grlmn
M G8 years ago

We werent created to judge, but to love :)

Love you fellow man, dont know howmany of you actually know south america for example ( one of the places in which you can find extremely horrible places )

God did not create borders, hungry man did.

want to learn spanish, :) ill teach you.

Rebecca G.
REBECCA G8 years ago

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them"
~Mother Teresa

bob m.
bob m8 years ago

All of us are also decendants of liars, con artists, invaders,hustlers etc. of all the colours in the rainbow.
Tell us Rebecca ; appart from the fact that you seem incapable of wrapping your REVOLUTIONARY mind around the word Illegal; Do you hold up your arm with a fist on it between each writing session? You know like Peter Sellers did in that movie
where his arm kept snapping up in a nazi salute.
Of Course ; I realize that you are comming from much the other side of the"political" spectrum. Maybe some revolutionary think tank from Venezuela?
Usually I talk from social populist points of view, but The aroma ((stink) of hypocrisy and blood lust is so strong in the midst of
all this sweet Caring babble that I find myself defending a status quo that I never dreamed I would.
"take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck from you brother or sister. Compadre.

Judith S.
Judith S8 years ago

My comments only apply to those who are illegal. I have no problem with people who are here legally. It is not about racism. I also have Latin family members through marriage, but the difference is that they came here and legally became citizens.

And yes, I think the many people who are living out in the streets literally are living in conditions very similar to third-world countries, and as time goes out and we get pushed out of more and more jobs, there will be more Americans literally living in the streets.

I think some people try so hard to be politically correct and "nice" that they don't realize what harm they are doing.
There is no reason we should bend over backwards for people who disrespect our laws and disrespect us. And I certainly don't want to give my job to one.