SAN ANTONIO — Fourteen national leaders of U.S. unions and civic organizations and a member of the Mexican Congress participated in the First International Forum on Immigration here, May 5. It was convened by Jaime Martinez, national treasurer of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to analyze problems with and propose solutions to the issue that most strongly impacts the Latino community and workers in this country: immigration.
Rosa Rosales, national LULAC president, called for a just and comprehensive immigration reform that unites families and ends the jailing of “268 minor children of immigrants.” She assailed the wall being expanded along the Mexico-U.S. border as “a shameful thing.”
Likewise, Jose Jacques Medina, who represents the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) in the lower house of the Mexican Congress, expressed the unanimous repudiation by Mexico of the “wall of shame which divides our communities.” Along the U.S.-Mexico border, he said, “no bridge has ever been blown up by any Mexican in the 159 years since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.” On the contrary, he continued, “the immigrants who cross the border have constructed your bridges for you, your roads; we have built your houses.”
United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez denounced the exploitation of farm labor, and warned against the “bracero” temporary worker program that is part of President Bush’s immigration reform proposals.
Dr. Gabriela Lemus, executive director of Labor Council on Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), condemned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s workplace raids. She deplored the fact that the immigrants detained in such raids are constantly moved to different detention centers, making it almost impossible for their families to see them. Lemus drew attention to the growing political clout of Latinos, noting that they increased their participation in the last elections by 37 percent.
LULAC’s Martinez said immigrant rights groups would soon distribute a card among immigrants informing them what to do in case of a raid. It will instruct immigrants how to speak to immigration agents and provide a national telephone number that could help them to get legal defense.
Emma Lozano of Pueblo sin Fronteras and founder of the United Latino Family organization in Chicago, assailed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security, for its “campaign of hate against Latinos.” She cited the case of Elvira Arellano, who sought sanctuary in a Chicago church, as an act of civil resistance against deportations. Lozano proposed the creation of a rapid response group to help immigrants in emergencies.
Jesus Romo, an activist in the Border Action Network/Accion Fronteriza in Southern Arizona, called for peaceful protests against the Minutemen vigilantes.
Carlos Arango, executive director of Casa Aztlan in Chicago, describe a recent “military operation” carried out in Chicago by immigration agents in which 125 people were detained. It looked like a “little Baghdad,” he said. He urged pressure on Mexico to get its consulates in the U.S. to defend Mexican citizens effectively.
“The most important thing is unity,” Carlos Marentes, of the Committee for a General Amnesty and Social Justice in Seattle, told the World/Nuestro Mundo. The struggle against the war in Iraq and the struggles of African Americans, Native Americans, women and gays and lesbians are not separate movements, he said, adding that the immigrant rights movement should seek the support of “our natural allies.”
At the end of the forum, participants approved a demand that President Bush declare a moratorium on raids and deportations until immigration reform is achieved. They also agreed to call on the U.S. Congress to guarantee that the money which has accumulated in the Social Security fund from the payments of undocumented immigrant workers be used to pay for their legalization as permanent residents.