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Standing up for immigrant rights

May 26, 2006 | Page 11

AS CONGRESS debates the passage of anti-immigrant measures, activists around the country are organizing to keep up the fight for dignity and respect for immigrant workers.

-- In Quincy, Mass., as many as 70 people turned out May 21 for a community meeting in defense of four Chinese residents who were assaulted by Quincy police the day before the massive May Day rallies for immigrant rights.

At the meeting, called by Boston's Chinese Progressive Association, many Chinese residents expressed fear of increased attacks at the hands of police and stressed the need for more community involvement in preventing police brutality. In addition to a public investigation into the case and an inquiry into police brutality, activists are demanding that charges against the Quincy Four be dropped, that the Quincy police force issue a public apology, and that the cops involved be suspended without pay.

-- In Tracy, Calif., about 50 people converged May 20 at a Chevy's restaurant in solidarity with eight workers who were unfairly fired for participating in the May 1 rallies. People came from San Francisco, Sacramento and Berkeley to march two miles with Tracy community members and rally in front of the restaurant.

Two weeks prior to the May 1 rally, many of the restaurant's kitchen workers asked their supervisor's permission to take the day off. Chevy's management responded by scheduling every worker for May 1--including those who normally aren't scheduled on Mondays.

Eight workers missed their shift and attended the rally for immigrant rights in Stockton, Calif. When five of the workers went back to work on Tuesday for their normal shift, not a word was mentioned about their absence. But the next day, all eight were called in and fired.

Five other workers quit in disgust, including supervisor Fernando Martinez. "Management asked me if I was...with Chevy's or if I was with the workers," said Martinez. "I said I was with the workers. I didn't like the way they treat my people, my friends."

The fired workers are now filing an unfair labor practices lawsuit against Chevy's.

-- Activists turned out in several cities May 17 to rally for immigrant rights.

In Boston, as many as 600 people held hundreds of wooden crosses to symbolize the deaths that occur each year at U.S.-Mexico border. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Boston May Day Coalition, organizers hoped the event would call attention to politicians for the need to pass "comprehensive" immigration reform.

Unfortunately, organizers focused on meeting with Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry before the rally, rather than reaching out to as many communities as possible. But while some of the leaders in the coalition are willing to settle for a "lesser evil" immigration reform bill, many participants discussed the need to fight for amnesty and not settle for a guest-worker program.

On the same day in San Francisco, approximately 250 people rallied at United Nations Plaza for full legalization and the demilitarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. Speakers included local activist Miguel Araujo, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate Todd Chretien, and Green Party candidate for California Governor Peter Camejo.

Gus Newport, the former mayor of Berkeley, Calif., drew parallels between this new movement and the Black civil rights movement. "If we have to march day after day, we will win!" he told the crowd.

In Cincinnati, 60 people gathered outside the Tangeman University Center to oppose the racist HR 4437 bill and border militarization. Students Together for Immigrants Rights organized the rally, which included speakers from the Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Dignity and the International Socialist Organization.

"We're here today to stand up to the lies that are being repeated by the politicians and the media about immigrants," said Unkyong Ho, a graduate law student, adding, "Immigrants are not criminals or terrorists."

Akunna Eneh, Shane Johnson, Jenny Olson, Amirah S.G. and Corrie Westing contributed to this report.

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