CHICAGO – Over 500 people marched here April 14, calling for amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, an end to the U.S. bombardment of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and justice for all.

The turnout showed the reawakening of a willingness of working-class immigrant communities and their supporters to buck the supposed national anti-immigrant mood and to return to some of the most important agendas of struggle that were interrupted on Sept. 11. Organizers promise that it is the first of many such marches.

The rally was organized by Sin Fronteras, a mostly Mexican American social justice organization in Chicago, and other groups and activists. Mexican, Central American and Polish immigrant communities, as well as Puerto Rican and other groups, were notably represented.

The mood was extremely upbeat. In memory of the late Cesar Chavez, the crowd chanted “¡Si se puede!” (“yes, it can be done!”) every time a speaker mentioned amnesty or the other demands of the marchers.

Emma Lozano, president of Sin Fronteras, pointed out that Sept. 11 is no reason to abandon the struggle for immigrant amnesty. “We create the wealth and we pay the taxes,” Lozano said, “so at least we should be able to be legal in this country.”

Reminding participants of the hundreds of immigrant workers who were killed in the World Trade Center attack, Lozano said, “in the name of all these immigrants who lost their lives [on Sept. 11], we demand amnesty now!”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) addressed the crowd, asking them to keep pushing for the passage of his legislative initiative, HR-500, which would legalize the more than 8 million undocumented in this country.

“Hundreds of millions, billions of dollars are paid to the IRS every year by undocumented workers,” Gutierrez said.

Pointing to the imposing federal buildings and modern post office that surrounded the rally site on three sides, Gutierrez said that undocumented workers “paid for the construction of these buildings.” It is hypocrisy, Gutierrez said, that undocumented workers can contribute to the economy and pay the taxes, but are not recognized as having any rights.

State Rep. Cynthia Soto and various organizational representatives also addressed the crowd.

The demonstrators presented a stack of specially created 1040U (“U” for “undocumented”) tax forms to graphically demonstrate how much the undocumented pay in taxes. These forms will be taken to be delivered to the government by a Chicago delegation on April 15 – tax day.

A Mexican immigrant at the rally expressed the point of view of all present, that immigrants are here to stay “if they kick us out through Juarez we will come back through Tijuana – we come here to work honorably, we aren’t hurting anybody. We’re not terrorists.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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