Rights for immigrant workers needed now more than ever

Opinion





Thousands of immigrants are planning a May Day mobilization in Washington, D.C., with a clear message: Rights for immigrant workers now! The national day of action on this international workers’ day is being organized by the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty for Immigrants, a grassroots coalition of labor, community, and faith-based organizations with a large immigrant and undocumented immigrant base, established in 1999. Our leadership is 100 percent immigrant and elected by our base.

The coalition’s legislative proposal, the Freedom Act, is the only known proposal elaborated by immigrants themselves during a two-year process of discussion and development of demands and principles for immigration reform. The uniqueness of the Freedom Act proposal is that it goes beyond the legalization of current undocumented residents, and proposes a system to regularize future migration flows. Given demographic and economic realities of the USA, immigrant workers will continue to be recruited by U.S. employers to fill jobs domestic workers do not want. We need to create a system where these workers required by the economy can enter with full human and labor rights, and not as modern slaves.

We are at a crucial moment in the struggle for full human and labor rights for the 8.5 million undocumented workers living and working in the U.S. The immigrant community is under an irrational attack. Last year, the Supreme Court denied labor rights to undocumented workers, raids at airports deported janitors arguing “national security,” Pakistanis were deported for no reason, Angolans were denied their temporary protected status.

Under this general anti-immigrant hysteria, immigrant workers continue in the shadows, working hard to sustain the economy, contributing to the greatness of this country. They are recruited for the worst-paid and unhealthy jobs no Americans want to do, dying in the Twin Towers and in the North Carolina fields contaminated by pesticides. It is clear that unless we win permanent residency for all immigrants these valuable workers will be unprotected. This is the time for immigrant voices and supporters to be heard in Congress.

The coalition plans to repeat its successful May 1 action of last year. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., hundreds of immigrants and supporters will knock at the door of their congressional representatives demanding permanent residency for immigrants of all nationalities who have been living in the USA for years, working hard, paying taxes, and not committing crimes. This will be followed by a press conference and rally at the Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill from 1 to 3 p.m.. We will be joined at our rally by members and supporters of the SEIU (Service Employees union) Local 82. Day of Action participants will be supporting Local 82’s Justice for Janitors rally following the immigrant rights activities.

To participate in the day of action, or to find out what you can do to help win immigrant rights, call Beatriz Maya (419) 243-3456.



Beatriz Maya is the lead organizer of the Immigrants Rights Campaign of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and a member of the executive committee of the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty for Immigrants. She can be reached at bmaya@floc.com