Si Se Puede! The undocumented speak up – and America should listen (FCN, 04-10-2006)

UNITED NATIONS ( – In advance of a massive mobilization of immigration and anti-war organizations coming together on Apr. 10 in New York for what is considered “A National Day of Action Rally for Immigrant Rights,” pro-immigration activists and mobilization organizers held a press conference Apr. 7 to inform the media on this and upcoming mobilizations.

Organizers said that some 70 cities would be participating in the demonstrations, demanding that the United States government stop its war in Iraq and the war on immigrant rights.


“As Congress and the executive branch wage war on two fronts, we are mobilizing to stop them. We will take our country back,” Judith LeBlanc, an organizer for United for Peace and Justice, told reporters at the press conference. She explained that the Bush administration continues to galvanize support in America for its war on terrorism by suggesting that immigrants may be the so-called external enemy.

Ms. LeBlanc also stated that the demand of the marches would be to: create real legalization with a path to citizenship for immigrant workers; stop cruel detentions and deportations that are destroying families; stop using laws to criminalize communities; protect all of our fundamental rights; and put an end to the seemingly never-ending oil wars.

“We know that peace abroad is impossible without fighting for justice at home. As the peace movement stands strong for justice and the targeting of immigrant families who live and work in our communities, we are strengthening the movement to end the immoral war in Iraq,” Ms. LeBlanc stressed.

Ending the foreign policies premised on control of resources, both human and natural, will dramatically affect the conditions, which compel people to migrate from their home countries, she added.

New York City may be experiencing the largest wave of immigration in its history, according to pro-immigration activists. The 2000 U.S. Census states that there are 2.9 million immigrants in the city’s five boroughs. Most of today’s immigrants in the city are from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the former Soviet Union.

New York immigration activists have coined the phrase ‘immigration apartheid’ as at least one million of the 2.9 million immigrants here have no direct way of holding their local elected officials accountable for city agencies, including public education, police conduct and affordable housing programs.

Pro-immigration activists have also pointed to the fact that despite the lack of representation, immigrants pay more than $18.2 billion a year in New York state income taxes, assessed at the exact same rates as their citizen neighbors.

“When 20 percent of adult New Yorkers, including one-half of the residents of some neighborhoods, are being excluded from the political process, our democracy is in crisis,” said Cheryl Weitz, director of Government Access, a new immigrant empowerment organization.

One of the big issues that galvanized activists is the fight to give immigrants the franchise. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stated on his weekly WABC radio program that immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to vote or given automatic citizenship. He said they must “learn American history, speak English and swear allegiance.”

However, some members of the city council disagree vehemently with the mayor. On Apr. 5, Councilmen Charles Barron (D-Bklyn.) and Kendell Stewart (D-Bklyn.) introduced a bill to allow documented immigrants who live in the city for at least six months to be allowed to vote in municipal elections.

“Taxation without representation and the struggles to remove arbitrary barriers to participation in this nation did not end with the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement,” noted City University Professor Ron Hayduk, author of “Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States.”

Another issue briefly touched upon at the press conference was the inference by the media that Black immigrants were staying away from the national demonstrations. “The media and politicians try to divide our communities by saying that Blacks born in America are angry with immigrants,” said Benita Jain of the Immigrant Defense Project of NYSDA. “They are right;” she stressed, “People are angry, but not for the reasons they are sighting.”

Jose Richards, representing the organization Sons and Daughters of Jamaica, said: “We are all part of the mix. This is not about [your race]. We are all catching hell.”

“We are all fighting for basic human rights,” opined Bakary Tandia of the African Services Committee.

Priscilla Gonzalez, of Domestic Workers United, offered that, “poor people in the U.S. are being sent to Iraq to kill poor people there.”