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News and reports

July 20, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Anti-immigrant law in Waukegan, Ill.
Chicago police torture
Rochester, N.Y., antiwar march
Health care is a right
Caravan for Humanity and Accountability

Anti-immigrant law in Waukegan, Ill.
By Lucy Zamora and Rosa Zamora

WAUKEGAN, Ill.--As thousands protested outside, the city council of this Chicago suburb voted July 16 to uphold a plan that would allow local police to enforce immigration law and to initiate deportation proceedings against immigrants convicted of serious crimes.

Mayor Richard Hyde and other city officials have applied to participate in a program under section 287(g) of the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, which would allow local police to deport both legal and undocumented immigrants who are convicted of crimes such as murder, rape and drug-related felonies.

Hyde states that the goal of this program is to rid the city of criminals, not to persecute immigrants who live within the law. But immigrant rights activists disagree.

Approximately 53 percent of the city's 82,000 residents identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic. Activists say that Waukegan's participation in the 287(g) program will lead to police abuse of the Spanish-speaking community and make undocumented immigrants reluctant to report crimes because of fear of deportation.

News of the program led to a spirited rally and prayer vigil as the council voted to reaffirm the bill by an 8-2 margin. "People showed that they were willing to fight," said Jorge Mujica of Chicago's March 10 Coalition, which organized a busload of activists to support the protests. "People were disappointed by the outcome, but they're going to keep fighting this."

Lilia Paredes, vice president of the Chicago chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, has also asked business owners to sign a letter to Mayor Hyde demanding that the city stop the progression of this program, and has called for an end to a controversial towing ordinance that requires police to impound the vehicles of drivers without a valid driver's license or proof of insurance. This ordinance targets undocumented immigrants and would require drivers to pay a $500 fine to get their vehicles back.

Immigrant rights activists will work to educate community members about their rights in the face of raids and local initiatives that target immigrants in the coming months.

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Chicago police torture
By Julien Ball

CHICAGO--For the first time, elected officials in Chicago voted recently in favor of action to bring justice to victims of police torture who were electro-shocked, suffocated and beaten in Area 2 and 3 police stations by officers under former Commander Jon Burge from the 1970s through the 1990s.

On July 10, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed three resolutions on the topic.

One urges Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to grant hearings to 26 currently incarcerated torture victims. A second calls on the U.S. Attorney's office to prosecute Burge and the officers who served under him. A third calls for torture to be a federal crime with no statute of limitations.

While the resolutions are non-binding, they send a message that the highest body of Cook County favors action to redress decades of injustices.

The County Board also referred a resolution to its Litigation Committee that would cut all funding to special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle. Egan and Boyle spent $7 million in public funds to release a toothless report last year that acknowledged that officers under Burge had abused defendants for decades. However, they failed to bring charges against any officers, claiming that the statute of limitations had expired.

The County Board resolutions were the result of a public hearing on June 13 to discuss a report signed by more than 200 organizations and individuals detailing the failings of Egan and Boyle to bring charges against Burge and his officers despite prosecutable offenses that fell within the statute of limitations, including perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Attorneys, activists, family members of torture victims and victims themselves packed the room, voicing their anger over decades of injustice.

The movement against police torture is gaining momentum. On July 19, the City Council will introduce a resolution calling on the city to pay out settlements to several freed torture victims. And on July 24, the City Council will hold public hearings on the failure of special prosecutors to deliver justice.

Activists again plan to pack the gallery and are prepared to testify to pressure the city and Madigan to take action.

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Rochester, N.Y., antiwar march
By Josh Karpoff

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--More than 400 people came out to demand an end to war funding here on July 2. The rally and march, organized by Rochester Against War, Peace Action and Education and others, targeted Republican and Democratic elected officials for their recent passage of additional war funding.

The large, multi-generational crowd was vocal in its opposition to the war, with chants like "Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Bush's crimes." The march was led by a large contingent of students, who have been putting the summer break to good use laying the foundations of new Campus Antiwar Network chapters at schools around the Rochester area.

The protest started at the War Memorial Stadium and marched to the Liberty Pole, past a military recruiter's station to finally end at the Federal Building. Rush-hour traffic was stopped as marchers moved through downtown, and people waiting for buses home joined in the chants. Along the march route, members of the Street Theater group engaged in "die-ins" with participants wrapped in sheets stained with fake blood.

Speakers at the Federal Building included high school student Jake Allen, a student organizer from the outer suburb of Hilton, N.Y. He said he resents military recruiters coming to schools that are facing cuts because more government money is being spent to fight the war. "I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen. I'm tired of being treated like I don't know anything," he said.

"We feel that the Democratic Congress was elected in 2006 for one main reason: to end the war, It is up to Congress to listen to us and end the war," Jeff DeToro, an organizer for Rochester Against War, told the crowd.

"What is democracy if our leaders ignore what we want?" DeToro asked. "I don't think we can leave it up to our leaders anymore. We have to force the issue...We have to escalate our tactics. We have to organize ourselves. We're the antiwar majority."

The rally ended with nearly 20 people engaging in a sit-in in front of the doors of the Federal Building, which houses offices for Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hilary Clinton.

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Health care is a right
By Robin Gee and Ben Daniels

IN THE wake of the outpouring of anger at the U.S. health care system sparked by Michael Moore's latest documentary Sicko, activists have begun holding public meetings to discuss what we can do to fight for health care for all.

--In Madison, Wis., approximately 80 people came together for a panel discussion featuring Anne Gaylor, the administer of the Women's Medical Fund (WMF); Adrian Lomax, a prison-rights activist and former prisoner; Dr. Susan Carson, of the Coalition for Wisconsin Health; and Jack Trudell, a critical care nurse at the University of Wisconsin.

Gaylor spoke of the daily difficulties that many poor women face when exercising their right to choose to get an abortion, when an abortion can cost upwards of $2,000. The WMF provides grants to many women in need and argues that abortions should be free and accessible to all.

Lomax spoke about the cruel nightmare that prisoners experience in place of health care while in prison, where shameless negligence by guards and even medical staff can result in death.

Carson, from the Coalition for Wisconsin Health, spoke about the need to take control from the corporate government and noted the class nature of the issue. "Half of all personal bankruptcies are medical related and 70 percent of families that have a member with a terminal illness are in dire financial difficulty," she said.

Nurses are also under intense pressure. "It's been proven that a lower patient-to-nurse ratio saves lives, but the insurance companies and big business providers could care less," said Trudell.

A discussion followed about the fight to win the "Healthy Wisconsin" bill, which represents a first step towards fighting for a more comprehensive plan on a national scale.

--In Northampton, Mass., 35 people turned out for a panel discussion, that included representatives of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), MassCare (a campaign for single-payer health care) and others.

People shared inspiring personal stories. One spoke about their own personal health care crisis, and several nurses spoke about their working conditions and the fight for lower nurse-to-patient ratios.

The group is planning for next steps, including July 18 hearings at the Mass. State House on the issue of single payer health care, and October hearings around legislation to lower nurse-to-patient ratios.

There were also meetings of dozens of people in New York City, Burlington, Vt., and other cities around the country.

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Caravan for Humanity and Accountability
By Alden Eagle

NEW ORLEANS--Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan's Caravan for Humanity and Accountability made a stop at the Common Ground relief center in New Orleans' devastated Lower 9th Ward on July 11.

Sheehan recently declared that she will challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress because of the failure of the Democrats to end the war in Iraq. Her caravan is currently traveling across the country, from Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to bring attention to antiwar activism and pressure Congress to act.

Sheehan, addressing a gathering of about 50 Common Ground volunteers and local antiwar activists, said that this was her fourth trip to New Orleans, a city whose neglect she has long linked to the war. She called the man-made disaster following Hurricane Katrina "one of George Bush's crimes against humanity," and not a natural disaster, but a "Bush-made disaster."

The caravan will continue through the South, reaching Washington on July 23.

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