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The Social Forum of the â€¦
Coretta Scott King
Lee Siu hin
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The Battle for Immigrant Rights
F or the past two years, the United States has been quietly pursuing its largest anti-immigrant campaign in 50 years. President Bush, right-wing Republicans, and many Democrats are once again using immigrants as scapegoats in order to secure conservative votes in the November 2006 elections.
Attacking recent immigrants is nothing new. Since the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1890s, Irish, Jews, Eastern Europeans, Japanese, and Filipinos have all been the target of attacks at various points in U.S. history.
Not surprisingly, right-wing anti-immigrant forces have been using the Minutemen campaign to exaggerate the so-called “crisis” of undocumented immigrants after 9/11. From the first appearance of the Minutemen in the beginning of 2005 to the passing of the Sensen- brenner-King Bill before the year’s end, this was a well coordinated plan serving racist anti-immigrant forces that caught most social justice activists off guard.
When Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the anti-immigrant vigilante group, the Minutemen, announced plans to go to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona to stop Mexican migrants from entering the U.S., it sparked a national movement against the racist group.
For the next few months, several dozen Minutemen-sponsored actions across the country were met with counter-protesters, sometimes 30 times larger than the Minutemen’s numbers. While most cities didn’t welcome the Minutemen, some gave them a green light and even a police escort to support their racist activities. The Southern California cities of Garden Grove and Baldwin Park were two of the cities where Minutemen actions drew national attention during the summer of 2005. The media took great pains to avoid mentioning that their police department was on the side of the Minutemen, attacking and arresting the counter-protesters.
On May 25, during a counter-protest against the Minutemen meeting in Garden Grove, community activist Theresa Dang was hit by a van driven by Minutemen supporter Hal Netkin. He was detained by police, but released and never charged. Instead the police arrested several counter protesters.
After the car incident, Dang went to the Orange County District Attorney’s office to complain about the incident. On June 16, the Garden Grove PD raided Dang’s house and charged her with two counts of felony charges, falsely accusing Dang of stealing a police flashlight during the counter-protest. The case went to a jury trial in late November and Dang was found not guilty. Nonetheless, the Garden Grove police department never apologized for their abuse of power, and the corporate media has been almost completely silent about the case.
Many feel that the Minutemen’s attempt to use anti-immigrant xenophobia to build their national movement has been a complete failure. However, this view underestimates the political forces behind the Minutemen. Since the beginning, Gil- christ has been praised by some right-wing Republicans as a political celebrity. With this newfound fame, Gilchrist and his associates have been invited to speak in cities across the country.
Gilchrist ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the November
2005 elections for Orange County’s 48th Congressional District
(a Republican stronghold) as the candidate of the American Independent
Party (AIP), a racist party founded in 1968 by then presidential
candidate and former Alabama governor, George Wallace. Gilchrist
lost the election, but received almost 25 percent of the vote and
declared he would run again in 2006.
According to news reports, Gilchrist’s campaign had been supported by right-wing Republican Colorado Congressperson Tom Tancredo. Tancredo has been a well-known anti-immigrant advocate and works closely with anti- immigrant advocacy groups such as the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA. Tan- credo is also a strong political ally of House Judiciary Committee chair F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) who promoted the odious anti-immigrant House bill HR 4437, the so-called Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.
D espite strong protest from immigrant, human rights, labor, and civil liberty groups, the U.S. House passed HR 4437—in less than 10 days without meaningful debate—on December 16, along with a $453 billion defense spending bill—that would funnel $50 billion more to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and a 5 week extension of the PATRIOT Act. The Senate is scheduled to debate the bill in early 2006.
The Sensenbrenner-King Bill would automatically make 11 million or more mainly Mexican undocumented immigrants “felons,” would fine or jail hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who employ undocumented workers, and would put millions of other Americans who help undocumented workers behind bars as “alien smugglers.”
Meanwhile, on December 7, 2005, the City Council of Santa Ana, California passed a law to become the first U.S. city to deputize their police to enforce immigration duties. When members of the community (which has a large Latino/a population) showed up at the Santa Ana City Council meeting on January 3, 2006 to express their anger, Tezcalipoca, a Latina activist from Santa Ana, was put in a chokehold and arrested. She faces criminal charges by several police officers for allegedly “disrupting” the meeting.
What Next for Activists?
T he struggle may be long and hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up hope. So far right-wing anti-immigrant forces have successfully created a “common sense” message of links: 9/ 11=counterterrorism=anti-immigrants=invade/occupy Iraq/Afghanistan. They are also calculating that the left will not be able to build a broad-based coalition to support each other’s struggles.
We should prove them wrong. We should build multi-ethnic community actions against the final passage of the Senate bill early this year. Immigrant groups around the country are beginning to build local coalitions to organize campaigns. In addition, we should not underestimate the powerful forces behind the current anti-immigrant movement and the “divide and conquer” tactics they are using. Minutemen understand they cannot build their movement in the major U.S. cities, so they have chosen several suburban/rural, conservative anti-immigrant communities in which to build their base. It is in places like these that the Minutemen enter candidates in elections hoping to win seats in local governments.
Activists have a responsibility to point out the links between immigrant rights, civil liberties, labor rights, the U.S. war in Iraq, sweatshops, international arms sales, and the WTO, FTAA, NAFTA, and CAFTA; along with links between multinational corporations and economic exploitation to racism, homophobia, and poverty at home. If we can do this, then we can win the struggle.
Lee Siu Hin is a community organizer with the National Immigrant Solidarity Network (www.ImmigrantSolidarity.org) and ActionLA Coalition (www.Action LA.org).
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.