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Immigrant rights activists mobilize for March 10 protest
Returning to the streets

By Orlando Sepúlveda | March 9, 2007 | Page 15

CHICAGO--Immigrant rights activists and organizations here are preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the massive March 10 demonstration with a rally in Federal Plaza to demand a moratorium on the raids and the use of "no-match" letters in stepped-up deportations of undocumented workers.

Activists hope that this rally, like last year's, "will unleash a new wave of political urgency in our movement," said Tania Unzueta, an immigrant and gay rights activist in Chicago. "We welcomed last year's rally because it gave us the chance to learn lots about civic participation, and now building on that will allow us to strengthen our movement for the future."

Momentum is starting to build. The South East Chicago Coalition for Immigrant Rights is expecting to fill three buses, and groups in the suburbs are also arranging transportation to the demonstration.

The Chicago Workers Collaborative also expects to bring three busloads of people, and ALMA, a Latino gay rights organization, expects to turn out 100 people. Local Spanish-language media outlets are also starting to spread the word.

The March 10, 2006, protest in Chicago that brought some 400,000 into the streets--and the wave of massive demonstrations throughout the country in the following months--halted the xenophobic drive to criminalize 12 million of undocumented workers in the U.S.

As a result, HR 4437--known as the Sensenbrenner bill--stalled, and the ascending immigrant rights movement mobilized for the biggest May Day demonstrations in U.S. history.

Millions around the country took to the streets, and at a time when politicians of both parties talked of the importance of passing some kind of immigration "reform," the movement prevailed. After all, no legislation is better than bad legislation.

The possibility of a new immigration bill has Corporate America salivating at the idea of a guest-worker program, which would allow it to drive wages down for all workers in the U.S. The Bush administration has acted as its chief promoter in both words--by openly endorsing a guest-worker program--and deeds--by stepping up raids and deportations to pressure Congress to pass the program.

For the immigrant community, these attacks at the federal level blend in with others from local and state legislatures and from racist vigilante groups.

The March 10 mobilization is about re-launching political activism as weapon and combining it with building grassroots emergency response networks in response to raids and debating the nature of the expected immigration legislation in Congress.

Organizers don't expect this demonstration to be as big as last year's. Last year, the unifying factor was stopping Sensenbrenner, but today, with a pending immigration bill and Democratic politicians calling on the movement not to protest, there's no longer agreement about how to advance the cause of immigrant rights.

Some now prefer lobbying over protest, and there is confusion about what posture activists should have towards a guest-worker program. Nevertheless, organizers say the march is a critical step in building momentum for a new national mobilization on May Day. All out for immigrant rights on March 10!

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