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News and reports

March 3, 2006 | Pages 11

Solidarity with Venezuela
Don't bring "don't ask, don't tell" to our campus
U.S. out of the Philippines

Stand up for immigrant rights
By Matt Pillischer and Shellie Rodgers

THE URGENT need to protect immigrant rights became even more apparent in December, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4437, the "Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act" sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
If signed into law, HR 4437 would make it a felony offense to be in the U.S. without proper documentation. It would also criminalize anyone who aids, assists or otherwise has regular contact with undocumented immigrants.

In response to this attack, 1,500 workers gathered in downtown Philadelphia February 14 for a "Day Without an Immigrant" rally. The rally filled the lawn across from the famous Liberty Bell with a sea of Latin American flags, and signs reading, "We are not terrorists, we just want to feed our families" and "No human being is illegal." El Paro, the main organizers of the rally, urged immigrants to walk out of work.

Despite the recent climate of fear and rumors of raids in the Philadelphia area, "the fact is that people have been waiting for a long time to take some action," said El Paro's Web site, "We begin to die the moment we stop fighting for what is important to us," a man from the Dominican Republic said at the rally.

"I have seen people take fathers away from their children," one Arab American speaker told the crowd. I am an immigrant. I came here just for work," Porfirio Aguayo, from Mexico, told Socialist Worker as he stood across the street from a member of the anti-immigrant group the Minutemen. "I am not dangerous. I work always and every day just for my family."

A large group of Chinese immigrants attended the rally to demand justice for Zhenxing Jiang, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who miscarried twins while in the custody of federal agents trying to forcibly deport her on February 7. On a 3-hour ride to Kennedy airport in New York City, Jiang made repeated pleas to the agents for an ambulance, complaining about pain, but was ignored.

As her husband later told reporters, "We are not terrorists. I've worked here for 11 years, and I've paid taxes for 10 of those years. We have devoted ourselves to this country."

In Oakland, Calif., more than 500 immigrant rights supporters came together February 25 for a rally also opposing the Sensenbrenner bill. The multiracial crowd included community members, union members, activists and socialists. The event was sponsored by the Northern California Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, and was endorsed by the Alameda Central Labor Council.

The rally was a step in the right direction for expressing solidarity in opposing racist attacks upon immigrant rights, and came on the heels of a recent resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that condemns Minutemen vigilantes and HR 4437--and commits to a non-compliance to its provisions.

Brian Vaughan and Jenna Woloshyn contributed to this report.

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Solidarity with Venezuela
By Afsaneh Moradian

NEW YORK--Several Bolivarian Circles and community-based political organizations met February 17-19 to discuss the current political situation in Venezuela and the need for a Venezuelan solidarity network in the U.S.

The Bolivarian Circles take their name from the networks of activists in Venezuela who follow Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's call to renew the tradition of Simón Bolivar, the leader of the 19th Century independence struggle from Spain.

The objective of the event was to "formulate work strategies and organize a proposal for a North American Solidarity Network" with the Bolivarian Revolution in March 2006 in Washington, D.C., and also to organize a demonstration in support of Venezuela and Cuba on April 8, 2006.

The conference was concerned with discussing the advancements made in Venezuela under Chávez's government and the challenges facing the country.

Several ambassadors spoke of major improvements in people's lives and Chávez's commitment to ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in English) as an alternative to neoliberalism and U.S. economic dominance.

Speakers focused on the role and actions of the government with little mention of the movements on the ground. There was a consensus that a network is necessary to defend Venezuela from possible U.S. military intervention. However, there was a debate about the relationship of the Bolivarian Circles to other participating organizations.

The majority of participants were absolutely right when they spoke of the need to create an open and democratic network that can bring together the ideas and experience of the circles and organizations that have experience organizing solidarity work in the U.S. Only open discussion and decision-making can lead to a network that can include all of the forces in solidarity with Venezuela on a local and national level.

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Don't bring "don't ask, don't tell" to our campus
By Julie Keefe

BOSTON--More than 60 people gathered February 15 at Northeastern University (NU) to protest the Solomon Amendment and the military's homophobic "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The event was organized by the Queer Caucus at NU Law School, which is one of the law schools suing the Bush administration in the Fair v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court case against the Solomon Amendment.

The Solomon Amendment forces the universities to violate their own non-discrimination policies by allowing the military--an openly discriminatory employer--to recruit on its campus. The demonstration was both successful and significant. There have been very few rallies or left-wing political events at NU, and the antiwar, anti-bigotry majority is often quiet and underconfident.

In contrast, this event was loud and confident, with protesters chanting loudly through campus, "One, two, three, four, we won't be silent anymore. Five, six, seven, eight, don't make us discriminate."

There was an important debate about whether the event should be focused only on the issue of discrimination, or whether it should take on the war and other concerns about military recruiters. Organizers and participants had different opinions about which orientation would create a larger audience for the event.

This event was an important contribution to the overall political climate on campus and has set the stage for debates within the left to be had out in the context of a public campaign against the bigoted U.S. military.

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U.S. out of the Philippines
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--Chants of "No to martial law!" rang out in the Westlake Mall February 24 as supporters of the Gabriella Network and Anakbayan Seattle gathered to oppose the imposition of a state of emergency in the Philippines that day.

This protest was part of dozens across the U.S. and around the world on the day President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo imposed the state of emergency. The new order allows Arroyo to ban all rallies and demonstrations, arrest people without warrants and seize control of newspapers and other media.

The excuse given for the state of emergency is that members of the military were planning a coup. However, some of the first victims of the crackdown were Arroyo's opponents on the left.

Newspapers were immediately seized and demonstrators arrested, including some members of the Philippines' Congress. The U.S. government is a firm backer of Arroyo, who is an ally in the Bush administration's "war on terror."

Arroyo also has introduced economic measures to increase multinational corporate control of the Philippine economy that include privatization of government services, increased foreign debt, increased taxes on the poor and repression of labor and other popular organizing.

The U.S. today has 5,500 troops in the Philippines--the most it has had stationed there in years. Philippine solidarity activists are calling for an end to U.S. intervention in the Philippines, and an end to the state of emergency and other repression. Activists are now planning further demonstrations in solidarity with the Filipino people.

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