-Voces de la Frontera – Milwaukee, WI
Immigrant rights organizations like ours have united in an unprecedented manner with labor unions, education unions, and other groups in opposition to the recent attacks on all public workers in Wisconsin.
Currently, we are strategizing against an Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill, AB-173, which Wisconsin law enforcement officers to confirm the immigration status of anyone charged with a crime or civil violation (which can include violations as small as jaywalking) if there is “reasonable suspicion”. Voces and our allies have been mobilizing against this since last fall, when it was first announced. AB-173 is now headed to the Homeland Security Committee. We now need national support in continuing to fight it. For more info on how to help, visit vdlf.org.
In addition, state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker has just eliminated in-state tuition for undocumented students- a victory that had been hard-won in 2009. Although it was claimed to be done as a means to reduce spending, the amount of undocumented students that applied for in-state tuition was so few that its’ financial impact was irrelevant in the budget.
What are the factors that have lead to the situation you are in in your state?
The Republican majority that took over both Wisconsin’s House and Senate has created a political environment which has made it acceptable to make grievous offenses against immigrants and workers across the state. The economic situation of Wisconsin has provided these officials and lawmakers such as Governor Scott Walker a convenient excuse to use immigrants as scapegoats, as is the case with the elimination of in-state tuition for undocumented students.
What are the next steps for organizing in your state for migrant rights? What strategies and tactics are you excited by and seeing success with?
The recent budget signed by the governor, which targets not only immigrant students, but all of the middle and working class, has brought unprecedented alliances between various groups including immigrants and Latino workers, and students and organized labor.
This collaboration could not be more visible than in this year’s May Day march, which had a theme of “Solidarity for Immigrant and Worker Rights’ which drew nearly 100,000 people and including National AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
Prior to the state budget being passed, we organized a non-violent civil disobedience action at the Joint Finance Committee meeting on education, in an effort to stall the vote which would remove in-state tuition for undocumented students. Community leaders from around the state participated, including members of the school board, the faith community, and public teachers. The action drew attention to the need for those opposed to the budget to escalate strategies to defend immigrant and worker rights.
Right to Remain: Congress of Day Laborers fight back in New Orleans
– Congress of Day Laborers
Immigrants in New Orleans are living in a state of siege. On day labor corners, immigration agents are arriving camouflaged as contractors to pick up undocumented immigrants and fill quotas. At worksites, police and immigrants agents are collaborating to resolve labor disputes on behalf of employers, criminalizing the very workers who courageously come forward to report violations of labor law. On the streets, traffic tickets, broken tail-lights and just being Latino lead to detention and deportation. In the apartment complexes, where immigrant families live with the constant precipice of eviction, law enforcement agents have conducted home invasions, pulling residents out of beds and showers in violation of their constitutional rights.
In all of these ways, the criminal justice system’s anti-immigrant strategy denies the community access to justice, humiliates the community’s efforts to gain dignity, and severely destabilizes all efforts to put down roots and achieve economic and cultural permanence. Incarceration directly removes immigrant community leaders from their communities in the United States and chills actions by threatening retaliatory arrests and deportations against immigrant leadership. The de-humanizing identity assigned by the criminal justice system impedes immigrant communities’ ability to even search for and build power. And as the immigrant community is pushed farther and farther into isolation and hiding, the criminal justice system further compounds their cumulative disadvantage by separating them from democratic institutions which should help build community and power—schools, community organizations, etc. In effect, the immigrant community is sentenced to remain temporary, unstable and in crisis.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, the fight against the criminal justice system is the Congress of Day Laborer’s fight for the Right to Remain in a city they now call home. As a membership organization, in deep alliance with the African American community, the Congress of Day Laborers is organizing for “the right to remain” in New Orleans, the right to hold control over their political future in Louisiana, and their right not to be defined by their relationship to the criminal justice system. In a state where the criminal justice system has historically driven the political economy of race and the politics of marginalization, the Congress of Day Laborers is a vehicle for the immigrant community to turn the tide on immigration enforcement so that it can expand democracy and live out its dreams.
In order to do this, the Congress of Day Laborers has built grassroots immigrant leadership, strong campaigns, a social movement around the issues of anti-immigrant enforcement and the attacks of the criminal justice system. In the future we hope to create permanent progressive infrastructure for immigrants, so that immigrants can build the institutional power necessary to change the political conditions that allow the criminal justice system to flourish.
– Cesar Lopez, Tierra y Libertad Organization
The passage of SB1070 in Arizona 2010 was a jolt to many in the migrant and social justice movements. In Arizona we see SB1070 as a mass statewide institutionalization of the already existing local/federal laws and culture of hate and greed that has led us to 1070. This legislation has led to mass mobilizations and deep organizing strategy evaluation state and nationwide. This evaluation has led to tough truths on what effective organizing is and has recharged the grassroots to work on rebuilding the social justice movement through deep sustained base-building work in Arizona and throughout the country. The last decades focus of the Migrant Rights movement on solutions coming from Washington, DC have have not only been ineffective, they have moved the people’s movement further from justice and taken away the voice of the grassroots migrants fighting for dignity and equality.
In 2011, Arizona has seen a large flow of continuing hate legislation. Every year and legislative session we see our communities come under attack by a higher intensity war of attrition. Attacks to further restrict the movement of migrants and make life impossible to live. This year we saw bills targeting the prohibition of emergency services for migrants by hospitals and clinic staff, bills that would require teachers and school principals to report migrant children and their families and the building hate in 2011 around another 2010 law HB2287 that aims to shut out cultural and ethnic education for Arizona children in all schools. Also, for more than a decade the Southern Arizona desert has been a graveyard for our migrant brothers and sisters walking into this country in harsh summer and winter climates. Their is a continued build up of militarization through checkpoints, 287G and local related laws, greedy privatized prisons for migrants, a massive border patrol and military presence, a rebuilding by the Obama administration of the border wall, and the existence of paramilitary organizations/anti-migrant militias all of which threaten the peace and fragile social fabric of border communities as well the violation of the sovereignty of the Tohono O’odham Nation people. On the border we see as a result of programs like the federal Secure Communities the mass deportation of migrants from around the country. Here we see the next phase of family separation that leaves our communities in desperation.
How does this culture of hate and destructful legislation exist. The polarization of Arizona communities has been building for decades. There are many factors that have led us to where we are. Over the past several decades conservative voters and activists from other parts of the country have migrated to Arizona in droves. This has led to a voting base that is active and makes and environment where hate and this type of legislation are a part of everyday life. As a result of this we see that Arizona is the first state to ban drivers licenses for migrants in the nineties. Another factor is the federal government’s continued focus on the criminalization of migrants. This has been a strong factor that has led to the culture of hate to build in Arizona. The criminalization of migrants at the federal level is has given permission for this to exist in Arizona.
Arizona 2011 is not all hate bad policy. We have also been called into action to rebuild our social justice movement using effective grassroots organizing. The community resistance to HB2281 from teachers, youth and elders has been strong and inspiring in Arizona and the country. The statewide We Will Not Comply with SB1070 July and August actions are still talked about and evaluated in our communities. Many groups have strengthened their focus to organizing that empowers migrants to raise their voice and be the leaders of this movement. To empower migrants to be go beyond mobilization and into deep organizing of the Barrios to build power from the ground up. This organizing has looked like deep organizing in the Barrio to build Barrio Defense Comites. Their is lots of beautiful organizing work continuing and being born all over Arizona. TYLO in Southside Tucson is working on building two sustained Barrio Comites as well as incorporating youth, education, organizing capacity building and food and economic sustainability as part of our Comite work. Through grassroots organizing we empower migrants to recognize their role and responsibility as leaders and we are rebuilding not only the migrant and social justice movement, but weaving stronger together the fragile social fabric that keeps our Barrios together.
Many sectors are seen working together, figuring our growing pains and collaborations and building to launch effective campaigns. The strength of the migrant justice movement has propelled many other sectors into action, rebuilding and reorganization. The diferent secotrs of the social justice movement realize that we are in together in the same fight and that we must be realistic about where our movement is at and where it can be. All of us together can build a social justice movement that will fight and dare to win!
Come visit us and other organizations in Tucson, AZ. Share with us your skills and capacity and learn about our work. Keep your hearts, ears and eyes open for news from organizing for justice in Geogia and the kickoff of Georgia Human Rights Summer.
Nos vemos en los Barrios! cesar lopez is a community organizer with Tierra Y Libertad Organization in the Southside hoods of Tucson, AZ.
The fight for us in MD within the migrant rights movement is similar to that of the entire nation… we are pushing back on hostile enforcement policies that are separating countless families and threatening to devastate our communities. In the face of this, our organization in partnership with our community and local other organizations decided to push forward with a piece of pro-immigration legislation in the shape of an in-state tuition bill (SB167) or the “MD DREAM Act”.
After having experienced the disappointing failure of the Federal DREAM Act, due to political games and lack of courage on the part of elected officials, we continued the fight to provide better access to higher education to students regardless of immigration status in Maryland. We recognized that through local tangible victories we can to strengthen our communities and mobilize countless youth in our state for any future revolutionary movements.
The factors that led to the need for such a laws are blatantly obvious. This can be seen in the disparity in the quality of primary education (K-12) and the