NEW YORK ( – The steps of City Hall were filled with supporters of immigrants’ rights Apr. 13, as they gathered to announce their support for the “May 1 Boycott for Immigrant Rights.”

Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron (D); Brenda Stokley of the Million Worker March; Chris Silvera, president of the National Black Teamsters Caucus; Larry Holmes of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and the Troops Out Now Coalition; and Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council were among the leaders present for the noon press conference. Organizers are calling for immigrant workers and supporters to take off work, walk out of classes, not to buy or sell anything, and to rally and march for immigrant rights on May 1.

The participants had also gathered to say that they were united in the fight for immigrant rights, regardless of what the media sound bites were implying. “We are living in a country with a $2.8 trillion budget, spending $300 billion on the war in Iraq, so we say there is enough money to create jobs for all of us,” offered Councilman Barron. “And we say to the White male-dominated power structure, we are not fighting each other–Blacks against Mexicans; Mexicans against English-speaking people from the Caribbean, Africans against Haitians–divide and conquer tactics. We are here to say that we are united.”


Activists said that they had come to realize that the conservative-right wanted to use immigration as a viable wedge issue.

“Out here today on the steps of City Hall, you have this gathering of grassroots representatives, many of them of African descent, union leaders, union organizers, tenant leaders and politicians. We are here to make the statement that we will not be divided, and that those who try to divide us will fail,” Mr. Holmes said.

Activists also reacted strongly to the media allegation that civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and National Urban League were not speaking out loudly enough on the immigration issue. “Again, I say, this is a tactic employed by the White male power structure to divide the grassroots,” Councilman Barron stressed.

The San Francisco Chronicle in an Apr. 13 article stated that a field poll out of California showed that 82 percent of Blacks questioned support offering undocumented workers the opportunity to become citizens, while 76 percent of Latinos and 74 percent of Whites questioned took that position.

The writer noted that the NAACP, Urban League and Black politicians such as Illinois Senator Barak Obama have “voiced strong support for legislation to help illegal immigrants.”

“I thought we had put that argument to rest,” John White, a spokesman at the National office of the NAACP in Baltimore said, during a telephone interview. Mr. White added that Bruce Gordon, head of the NAACP, marched in a major rally in Los Angeles and that the NAACP posted its immigration position “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Should Not Include Criminalization of Undocumented Workers” on its website.

“Our big concern is what is happening to Haitians and Africans,” Mr. White pointed out. “On Apr. 19, the Department of Homeland Security launched a major round up of undocumented workers.”

Ms. Bailey says she sees an opportunity now to organize all workers and develop a new leadership paradigm. “If we look at this immigration issue as an opportunity to build a workers coalition because all workers are affected by the corporate policies that destroy people’s pensions and benefits,” she stressed, “then we, with proper analysis, would be able to develop a new leadership that we so desperately need.”