RICHMOND, Va.: Immigrant workers protest state crackdown

Carrying signs reading “No human being is illegal,” undocumented workers and immigrant rights activists marched on the state General Assembly, Feb. 3, to halt a spate of legislation targeting them. Modeled after measures in other Southern states, Virginia’s General Assembly is debating measures that would deny undocumented workers public services, make it illegal to be in the state or even travel through it without immigration documents, and empower local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 200,000–250,000 undocumented workers live in Virginia. The University of Virginia reports 10 percent of the state’s 7.6 million residents are foreign born.

Construction worker Ricardo Juarez told reporters, “The borders can be moved at any time, but we are all humans.”

Perry King, a social worker, charged that an “unjust immigration policy” breaks up families. “I’ve seen a lot of depression and sadness because of it.”

The Rev. J.P. Hong, a naturalized citizen from Korea whose Culmore Methodist Church congregation includes worshippers from 20 countries, marched, saying that profiling immigrants “forces us to stop what we’re doing or ask ourselves, ‘What is the higher law we have to obey?’”

RALEIGH, N.C.: NAACP marches for people before profits

Under the banners of the NAACP and 30 social action organizations, state residents converged on Jones Street outside the Legislature, Feb. 10, saying “Jones Street belongs to the people and not to the rich.” The campaign, Historic Thousands on Jones Street, will present lawmakers with a 14-point “People’s Program” starting with “high quality, well-funded, diverse schools.” Other demands include livable wages, health care, redress of two ugly chapters in state history — the overthrow of the biracial 1898 Wilmington government and forced sterilization of poor, mainly Black women from 1947 to 1977, collective bargaining rights for public workers and bringing the troops home from Iraq now.

“We intend to fight for these agenda items to be made real in a democracy in North Carolina,” said Dr. William Barber, state NAACP president. “Our goals are very clear — we want to remind the General Assembly and many others that … Jones Street belongs to everyday folk, not to the people who pay their way to play inside our General Assembly.”

PORTLAND, Ore.: Grannies go to jail

Since Bush announced his Iraq troop escalation three weeks ago, the Portland Surge Brigade, including six “Grannies” — women ranging in age from 49 to 75 — have demonstrated outside the Armed Forces Career Center. On Feb. 2, the Grannies decided to block the entrance. They were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. Their court date is March 7.

“It’s very simple,” said Patricia Schwiebert, 61. “We just don’t want our children coming in here and getting enlisted.”

Linda Weiner, 49, added, “It’s worth it if we kept one person from being recruited, one more person going over to Iraq, yes. Absolutely.”

The Surge Brigade plans to continue the recruitment center protests.

BALTIMORE: Homeless workers fill shelters

Just before temperatures took a nosedive, about 100 volunteers took to the streets Jan. 26 to conduct a biennial census of the homeless. In 2003, the count reported 2,600 people without a permanent roof over their head. In 2005, the number rose to 3,000. This year’s data will not be available until spring.

In some ways, the frigid cold was “fitting” for this count, said Madeleine Shea, acting director of the city’s Homeless Services, which funds nonprofits that serve homeless people. “It’s good to be reminded of the conditions in which homeless people live. The cost of housing is going up and that influences homelessness.”

Adam Schneider, who works at the Health Care for Homeless, was one census volunteer. While interviewing Marie Thomas, 33, he found out that she was a trained day care worker who had fled an abusive husband. Currently earning $8 an hour as a part-time receptionist at a medical clinic, Thomas has been spending her evenings at Christ Lutheran Place, a shelter, for the past eight months.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimated in 2004 that 13 percent of Americans, 37 million people, including over 1 million children, experience homelessness at least once in any year. Soaring housing prices, fewer affordable apartments and declining wages are all factors that the center cites.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @