BROOKLYN, N.Y. – On March 23, some 350-400 people attended the Day of NYC Labor Solidarity with immigrant detainees who have been held following Sept. 11. The event supported ongoing weekly protests by immigrant, civil liberties and peace organizations at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, where many of the detainees are held. “I think it’s important for labor to show its solidarity for detainees,” said Lester Muata Greene, a member of the New York City chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. “What affects them will eventually affect us.”

On March 14, Amnesty International reported that “a significant number of [foreign national] detainees [held since Sept. 11] continue to be deprived [by the U.S.] of certain basic rights guaranteed under international law. These include the right to humane treatment, as well as rights that are essential to protection from arbitrary detention, such as the right of anyone deprived of their liberty to be informed of the reasons for the detention; to be able to challenge the lawfulness of the detention; to have prompt access to and assistance from a lawyer; and to the presumption of innocence.”

The March 23 event began with a diverse and spirited march led by labor banners. A rally outside the jail heard brief statements from many labor leaders.

“There is hardly a union that doesn’t have immigrant workers,” said Brenda Stokely, president of Local 215 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and a co-convener of NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW). “It’s a natural connection. You want to live in a free society, you have to fight against anything that encroaches upon that.”

Organizers will continue to seek labor support for the weekly protests. “I think this is a step forward,” said Michael Letwin, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/United Auto Workers Local 2325 and a co-convener of NYCLAW. “For the detainees especially, and their families who feel so isolated and so alone, that it’s important for them to know that there are people out there who are going to stand up with them and for them.”

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