Peaceful immigration reform protesters target White House, get arrested

WASHINGTON (PAI)–When it comes to campaigning for comprehensive immigration reform, Communications Workers President Larry Cohen is making a habit of supporting reform by getting arrested in peaceful protests.

For the second time – at least – this year, the CWA chief was handcuffed and taken to a lockup after a peaceful sit-down on the issue, this time on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House just before Labor Day. His prior arrest was near the U.S. Capitol, when Cohen and his colleagues campaigned to get the GOP-run House to vote on and approve comprehensive immigration reform. It didn’t. House leaders didn’t even listen.

Given Congress’ dysfunction, Cohen and 2,000 other people gathered in Lafayette Park to put pressure on President Obama to openly make good on his statement during the summer that he would do all he can, administratively, to change the status of millions of undocumented people now within the U.S.

They also want Obama to halt the 1,000 daily deportations of undocumented family members.

Obama hasn’t acted. The day of the protest, August 28, news reports surfaced that he might delay a decision again, until after the November election.

That didn’t sit well with Cohen, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, other activists in D.C. or colleagues in similar demonstrations, town halls and teach-ins nationwide.

Others who showed their commitment by getting arrested in D.C. included CWA Vice President Bill Bates, CWA Chief Of Staff Ron Collins and Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland, a union shop whose workers help Spanish-speaking D.C.-area residents.

Besides the daily deportations, “Thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America have been deported as well. What happened to the inscription on our Statue of Liberty – ‘Give me your tired, your poor'” Cohen asked.

“Is this what we have come to? Divided up, as working people, based on where we came from? Divided up, as in Ferguson, Mo., based on race? We have no hope for economic justice or democracy if we are divided, regardless of why.

“The president must take action and send the message that regardless of race or national origin, this remains the nation of the American dream,” Cohen said.

The D.C. demonstration was one of dozens nationwide-from Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston to New York to Fort Lauderdale – in a National Day to Fight for Families. In demonstrations, town hall meetings and other events, unions, religious groups, civil rights groups and community groups called for comprehensive reform and for Obama to act.

The GOP-run House has responded with punitive legislation and demands for more deportations, which the Democratic-led Senate has deep-sixed.

Reform that eventually legalizes the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. is important to all workers: As long as the undocumented are part of the “underground economy,” they’re easily exploitable and venal, vicious employers can use the threat of hiring them to force other workers to kowtow to low wages, no benefits and to stop organizing.

“The Republicans’ refusal to save our families from separation means that every week, thousands of children will go through the trauma of losing the love and safety of a parent,” the organizers of the nationwide protests said in a statement.

“The Republicans lied to the entire country: They said they wanted to accomplish immigration reform, but their recent actions – votes to tear families apart and side with far-right tea partiers – prove they were never serious.

“Consequences for our families are serious. As long as there is danger for our children, our movement will step up to protect them. It’s simple: We are taking action to demand President Obama comes through with immediate, comprehensive action to keep our families together…Our families are separated as we speak, and we can no longer wait.”

Photo: Casa de Maryland, Facebook.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).