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News and reports

January 5, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Protest the ICE raids
No reprisals at Gallaudet
City College of New York

Protest the ICE raids
By Alexander Billet and Rachel Cohen

IN RESPONSE to massive raids carried out by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on December 12, immigrant rights activists across the country organized emergency protests.

The raids were carried out at meatpacking plants--all owned by Swift & Co.--in six states; some 1,280 workers were arrested. ICE officials said that workers were being investigated for "identity theft," claiming that the workers' Social Security numbers were fraudulent or stolen.

These raids are likely a preview of things to come. Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff said he hoped it would act as a deterrent to "illegal" workers. "It's going to say to them, you know, 'This happened at Swift; it could easily happen somewhere else,'" Chertoff said. "In fact, I'm pretty much going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these cases."

But in several cities, activists organized protests to stand up to the attack.

-- In Chicago, more than 100 people came out in a lively protest of the Homeland Security office on December 15. Several groups active in the movement for immigrant rights--including the March 10 Coalition, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, and Chicago Workers' Collaborative--turned out to say that, despite the threats, they would keep up the fight.

-- In Washington, D.C., activists and community members protested outside ICE headquarters on December 19. Though the picket was built in only a few days, it drew 50 people.

The protest was diverse, including members of the D.C. Committee for Immigrant Rights, the International Socialist Organization, the Laborers International Union and members of El Salvador's Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front living in the U.S.

The highlight of the protest was when immigrant construction workers at a site across the street came to join the protest. The builders work for Miller & Long, one of the largest nonunion construction companies in the U.S, and immigrants make up 80 percent of its workforce.

"We're not criminals! We're not drug dealers! We're not terrorists! We come here to work, that's all!" exclaimed Carlos, an immigrant from El Salvador. "This country belongs to immigrants. The Europeans came over here, kicked all of the Indians out, and now when we try to come back to work, they build a wall!"

This protest shows the potential for rebuilding a fighting movement for immigrant rights. The committee is also launching a campaign to have D.C. declared a sanctuary city, which would prevent raids from being carried out here.

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No reprisals at Gallaudet
By Chris Yarrison

WASHINGTON--Gallaudet University's Board of Trustees announced in mid-December that it would allow reprisals to proceed against students and staff who participated in three weeks of bitter protests that roiled the campus in October.

The announcement came just after the board's selection of an interim president who enjoys widespread approval from the student body. The new interim president, Dr. Robert Davila, who is an alumnus and former teacher at Gallaudet, the nation's only liberal arts college for the deaf, was selected after protesters forced the termination of incoming president Jane Fernandes.

Fernandes had received two majority "no-confidence" votes from the faculty and a formal rejection from the Student Congress before facing a student-led opposition that occupied buildings and blockaded the campus, eventually swelling from 150 students to 2,000 students, faculty, staff and supporters, who marched on the U.S. Capitol in the last days before Fernandes' ouster.

The protesters repeatedly articulated two core demands, maintained throughout the events of October. They won their first demand--the resignation of Fernandes and the appointment of a new president--but the board has ignored their second--no reprisals for protesters.

As of December 16, 13 cases of participants losing university jobs and internships or being put on unpaid leave have been documented. The board announced December 14 that it would lift a "freeze" it had put on disciplinary action in November, allowing student judiciary reviews to proceed.

The students' victory was a major embarrassment for the board, which has been facing a review that has threatened the school's accreditation. Indeed, much of Davila's acceptance speech focused on reconciling Gallaudet's image with its donors and with Congress. He wants to "go to the Hill...and reassure our funding sources."

The protests in October galvanized the nation's deaf community, with hundreds of deaf schools across the country setting up tent cities in solidarity with the protesters in D.C. Though Davila gave a nod to students' concerns about transparency and "shared governance," students will have to wait until his term begins to see which objective--democratic reform or fundraising--takes priority.

In the meantime, reprisals continue. As Latoya Plummer, one of the protest's student leaders, has said, students "refuse" to be punished. "[T]he healing process won't begin if the reprisals go on," said Plummer.

E-mail board chair Dr. Pamela Holmes at [email protected] to demand no reprisals for protesters.

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City College of New York
By Rosa Haire

NEW YORK--The Daily News launched a shameless attack on freedom fighter Assata Shakur on December 12, prompting student activists to rally to her defense.

"Disgrace! Joanne Chesimard is a fugitive cop killer. Why is City College allowing her name to be honored on campus?" blared the paper. The article was referring to the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community and Student Center at City College of New York (CCNY) in Harlem.

Joanne Chesimard is a former Black Panther, who is better known as Assata Shakur. The center bearing her name provides a forum for educational lectures and movies, a student book exchange and is more generally a hub for campus and community activists.

The article labels Shakur a "terrorist" and presents distorted myths as facts in its reporting on her past. Shakur was sentenced to life in prison by an all-white jury for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper despite a lack of physical evidence.

She escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba in 1984, where she was granted political asylum. Last year, the Justice Department issued a million-dollar bounty for her capture and placed her on the terrorist watch-list.

The Daily News article ran after a right-wing City College student, notorious for harassing campus activists, wrote a letter to the paper. The Daily News article then spawned similar pieces in other papers that echoed the "cop killer" refrain.

Just weeks after the murder of Sean Bell at the hands of the NYPD, the timing of all this could not be more blatant. It is a diversion from the more pertinent issue of racist police brutality that's intended to instead portray the cops as victims. In response to the media attention, the City College administration pulled down a sign bearing the name of the community center.

Nearly 100 people from both campus and the Harlem community attended a meeting, and a small rally followed the next week that demanded an audience with CCNY President Gregory Williams, whose spokesperson told students their concerns would be addressed in the future. A larger campaign to pressure the CCNY administration will be needed this spring to defend the name and honor of the student center.

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