Friday, May 02, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Friday, May 02, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Friday, May 02, 2008


NOTE: IRN and other NNIRR posts can be found at


1. Los Angeles Times: March smaller, but festive. About 8,500 peaceful protesters converge on L.A. City Hall, urging an end to work-site immigration raids.


2. AFB: “Thousands marching across US for immigration reform”


3. Houston Chronicle: Immigration reform supporters gather at Texas rallies


4. Associated Press: “Thousands rally in May Day effort for immigration reform”


5. Washington Post: “Union and states try recruiting farm workers from Mexico”



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Los Angeles Times,1,1509602.story


March smaller, but festive

About 8,500 peaceful protesters converge on L.A. City Hall, urging an end to work-site immigration raids.


By Teresa Watanabe, Anna Gorman and Ari B. Bloomekatz

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

May 2, 2008


Thousands of workers waved American flags, marched to mariachi music and rallied for labor and immigrant rights in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, as May Day gatherings drew light but peaceful crowds.

Turnout across Southern California and the nation was markedly lower than in the last few years, when millions of marchers in more than 100 cities hit the streets on May Day to urge a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and other reforms.

In Los Angeles, where about 8,500 people took part in three separate marches that merged to rally at 1st Street and Broadway, some participants said fear of government raids and growing apathy about pros pects for change had dampened turnout. About 20,000 had been expected to participate.

"A lot of people feel that nothing is being done," said Xochilt Pacheco, 30, a Mexican American from Highland Park whose father is an illegal immigrant. She wore a white dress with the slogans "We are workers, not criminals" and "Legalize me" printed in red letters. "We march and nothing is done. We march and there are raids," she said.

Others said the lower turnout was a reflection of the immigrant rights movement's shift in focus from marches to voter registration and other civic activities, a decision not to push boycotts of school and work this year, and a preoccupation with contract negotiations and other issues. Unlike in past years, the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 and the We are America Alliance, a coalition of churches, labor unions and community groups, were not heavily involved in organizing this year's marches.

"This year, we're focusing on civic engagement work," said march participant Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.

On that front, immigrant rights advocates say they have won considerable success. The number of citizenship applications had doubled to 1.4 million by the end of fiscal year 2007 compared to the previous year, according to Rosalind Gold of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund in Los Angeles. The number of Latinos registered to vote in California had increased by 13%, nearly triple the non-Latino rate, in April 2008 compared to the previous year.

The May Day marches, which historically commemorate International Workers' Day, have been specifically used in Los Angeles to celebrate the contributions of the immigrant workers who make up nearly half of the county's workforce. They took place amid continuing fierce debate over immigration reform proposals, which have stalled in Congress.

The battle over what to do about the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants has prompted hundreds of state and local legislative proposals, colored the presidential campaign and brought tens of thousands of marchers into the streets nationwide in the last two years.

While turnout was light this year, the mood was festive at the Los Angeles marches' three downtown area departure points.

At MacArthur Park, vendors hawked noisemakers, American and Mexican flags and bacon-wrapped hot dogs as Aztec performers danced on a makeshift stage and musicians competed for attention.

At Olympic Boulevard and Broadway, a loud mariachi band led about 1,500 people in an early afternoon procession north to the Civic Center as activists handed out fliers and pushcart owners offered sweating marchers Popsicles, fruit and shaved ice.

While the largely Latino crowd occasionally chanted in Spanish -- "sí se puede," yes we can -- immigrants from South Korea, the Philippines, Japan and elsewhere also participated.

"I think it's really important for us to show the broad span of immigrants in Los Angeles," said Bev Tang of Silverlake, of the Filipino youth group Anakbayan. "Filipino immigrants are out here and are part of the struggle."

Rick Oltman, spokesman for the anti-illegal immigration group Californians for Population Stabilization, criticized marchers' calls for a moratorium on raids.

"It is reminding the American people that there is this whole group of people, illegal aliens, who do not want our laws enforced," he said.

But marchers included many legal immigrants. Andres Rivas, 68, a former El Salvador city mayor who received amnesty in the 1980s and is now a naturalized U.S. citizen, said he marched to support those who are still fighting for legal status. He said he was helped by those who fought for him and now, "we have to stand up for those who don't have it today."

Participants also included some of those injured in last year's MacArthur Park melee, when Los Angeles Police Department officers confronted marchers and journalists in a botched attempt to clear out the crowd.

One of them was Doris Ochoa, a 40-year-old janitor and illegal immigrant from Mexico, who wore a red shirt and marched near the front of the line with other victims. She said she and her two sons, now 5 and 14, were hurt last year while running from police on motorcycles. Ochoa, who has filed a lawsuit against the city, said she still can't understand why police hurt peaceful protesters.

"Why did they treat us like that?" she said. "They acted in a way officials shouldn't. It's important to show . . . that we are still standing."

Police reported no major problems Thursday and seemed to be taking extra care to be cordial. Officers on foot, bicycle and horseback -- many of whom participated in special training exercises to avoid last year's problems -- appeared relaxed and chatted with marchers, politely addressing them on loudspeakers:

"Hello. Welcome to your May Day march. Please move to the sidewalk."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified School District officials reported that 743 students walked out of classes Thursday, a steep drop from the 26,000 students in 2006 and 1,600 last year.

Gustavo de Jesus, 17, showed up at David Starr Jordan High School but left before classes began.

De Jesus, an illegal immigrant, said he wants to go to college, but doesn't know if he will be able to get scholarships to afford it. And even if he does, he worries that he will still end up working construction or at a fast food restaurant because he doesn't have immigration papers.

"I've been here my whole life," he said. "I love this country."

Reflecting the day's focus on comprehensive reform and ending immigration raids, a contingent of workers from a Van Nuys factory that was raided in February joined the march. Their calls for legalization and an end to blanket work-site raids were joined Thursday by some powerful allies: business leaders.

At a May Day news conference, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben said the government should concentrate its limited resources and enforcement efforts on those companies with a clear history of exploitation of workers.

Work-site raids have swelled in recent years, with 4,900 arrests in fiscal 2007, a 45-fold increase over 2001, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Toebben was joined by Jack Kyser, chief economist for the L.A. County Economic Development Corp., which released a study showing that tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue could be lost if continued raids force businesses to flee the state.

The study analyzed three industries thought to employ high numbers of immigrant workers -- fashion, food processing and furniture manufacturing -- and found that about 10,000 businesses created nearly 500,000 direct and indirect jobs and produced $18.3 billion in wages in 2006. If 15% of those firms left the region would lose nearly 75,000 jobs, the report found.

"We can't afford any more of these raids," Kyser said, adding that recruiters from Washington state and elsewhere have begun aggressively courting businesses to relocate.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said it was the agency's "sworn duty to enforce our nation's immigration and customs law and the agency is going to aggressively pursue that mandate."

Contributing to this report were Times staff writers Tony Barboza, Howard Blume, Jessica Garrison, Evelyn Larrubia, Jill Leovy, Rong-Gong Lin II, Robert Lopez, Sam Quinones and Joel Rubin.



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Thousands marching across US for immigration reform


21 hours ago

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Thousands of immigrants and rights groups marched peacefully across the United States on Thursday, renewing calls for reform to help bring 12 million illegal workers out of the shadows.

More than 10,000 people marched in Los Angeles late Thursday for one of the biggest demonstrations, one year after a similar protest erupted in violent clashes between police and protesters.

Immigrant rights activists say the protests -- which were taking place in more than a dozen other cities including New York, Washington, Chicago and Miami -- will draw attention to the issue of immigration reform.

Activists are campaigning for an overhaul of federal immigration laws that will provide illegal workers with a path to citizenship and an end to raids of businesses aimed at cracking down on immigrants.

About 10,000 people of Hispanic and Asian origin gathered in downtown New York's Union Square before a march to the federal immigration office.

In Los Angeles, police said around 10,000 people had gathered, sharply down on the vast crowd of around one million that turned out at 2006 protests.

Jose Gutierrez, leader of the Latino Movement USA, one of the organizing groups, said the protests would give voice to the millions of undocumented workers across the country.

"It is imperative to raise the voice of the more than 12 million undocumented people who work in this country," Gutierrez told AFP. "Every day families are being separated because of the raids."

Another activist, William Torres of the March 25th Coalition, said undocumented workers deserved the right to stay in the country legally.

"Is it fair that we only exploit them for their cheap labor and deny them citizenship when they love this country?" Torres said as crowds carrying American flags and placards began gathering in downtown Los Angeles.

Among the Los Angeles demonstrators was 15-year-old student Jorge Prieto, who had skipped classes to attend the rally. Prieto said he was demonstrating on behalf of his parents, both illegal immigrants from Mexico.

"I want my parents to be legalized in this country," Prieto said. "I see that all the immigrants are here to make the country a better place."

Protesters in Los Angeles have also won support from the city's chamber of commerce, with the body's vice president Samuel Garrison saying recent immigration raids were hurting the local economy.

"The raids are frightening workers. They are worrying employers," Garrison told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's going to cause a lot of businesses to think twice about coming to Los Angeles."

Los Angeles police are determined to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that erupted at last year's protests in the city, where police were accused of heavyhanded tactics against marchers and media.

A coalition of rights groups were holding rallies in Los Angeles from 4pm (2300 GMT).

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama meanwhile said the most effective way for protesters to make their voices heard was by registering to vote in this year's presidential election.

"Today, I encourage the thousands of people who are marching and calling for change to work hard registering voters in the months to come. Your vote is your voice," Obama said in a statement.

Obama's rival Hillary Clinton reiterated her pledge to introduce immigration reform in the first 100 days of her presidency, if elected.

"As President, I am committed to working with Congress to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill within my first 100 days in office," Clinton said.


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Houston Chronicle


May 1, 2008, 8:56PM


Immigration reform supporters gather at Texas rallies


By ANABELLE GARAY Associated Press Writer
© 2008 The Associated Press

DALLAS — Hundreds of people marched and chanted throughout Texas on Thursday as part of a series of rallies calling for laws that would give millions of undocumented immigrants a chance at legalization.

Protests in Austin and Houston had a turnout of some 400 each while Dallas had less than 100 participants. The events, meant to coincide with international workers day, were much quieter than previous marches that drew crowds in the thousands and a handful of counter-protesters.

Nancy Rios, a University of Texas graduate student whose parents immigrated from Mexico, said she believes political attacks on immigrants as well as stepped-up enforcement and raids on undocumented workers in recent months kept crowds to a minimum.

"I support immigrants and workers and all who are in this country searching for a better life and providing them with dignity and respect instead of dehumanizing and scapegoating them," Rios said.

She was among about 400 people who rallied at the steps of the state Capitol before a march through downtown Austin. Dozens waved American and Mexican flags while others held up red, white and blue signs that read "Citizenship Yes! Deportation No!"

The rally included speeches and music and a short play that depicted immigrants trying to cross the Rio Grande when they are arrested and deported back to Mexico. The march was to pass by Republican Gov. Rick Perry's mansion — he's not living there while it is being renovated — and the Travis County Jail on the way to Austin City Hall.

An estimated 300 to 400 people marched through intermittent raindrops in steamy downtown Houston Thursday afternoon, led by a man in Aztec garb and a woman beating on a drum.

"I'm here because we need immigration reform immediately," said marcher Victor Ibarra, 38. "We need to be able to travel and be free."

Ibarra said he entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico 15 years ago and remains undocumented. He's been trying to become a legal resident for the past seven years.

"I need some freedom," he said, wearing handcuffs and chains and carrying a sign that said in Spanish: "We don't have freedom. We don't have fair immigration. We are not slaves."

With temperatures in the mid 80s and blustery winds, many of the demonstrators carried other signs, some pushed strollers with infants and others led chants shouting through megaphones.

Police on horseback escorted and followed the crowd, which was confined to a lane of traffic that had been reserved for them along a downtown street. Among law enforcement officers standing by a federal building where the demonstrators gathered were some wearing shirts and gear with the logo ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Francisco Valle, 67, of Houston, carried a sign that said: "Deportation destroys families."

"This is a cause that affects everybody and affects future generations," he said. "There are people being left homeless, families divided. We need to bring those issues out."

In San Antonio, about 300 to 400 people marched through the streets of downtown, many wearing pins reading "Todos Somos Imigrantes," which translates to "we are all immigrants," and chanting "No wall between amigos!" in protest of border fencing.

"I think that, as an immigrant worker, I have the right to receive fair treatment and a fair salary," Araceli Herrera, 48, said in Spanish. Herrera, a housekeeper, said she became a U.S. citizen in June.

Chris Sanchez was marching to support comprehensive immigration reform, which he said might have allowed his father to stay in the U.S. He was deported to Mexico four years ago when Sanchez was just 17.

"I want to show the city and even the whole nation the force we have to get immigration reform," said Sanchez, 21, a fast-food restaurant manager.

After the march, the crowd listened to speeches and music in a newly renovated downtown plaza.

In Dallas, about 80 people chanting "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote" in Spanish walked the downtown streets. Rally attendants included about a dozen children and a handful of ice cream vendors who chimed their bells while marching behind the group on their way to City Hall. Police officers on bicycles escorted the crowd, ensuring that cars would stop during rush hour.

Carla del Rio, 21, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, came to the march with her 2-year-old daughter, Michelle. The little girl was in a stroller, holding a sign that said "If you want the Hispanic vote, then pass immigration reform now" in Spanish.

"The government needs to see that we are here so they can see that we want immigration reform," she said in Spanish.

Manuel Rodela, a member of march organizer International Coalition for Mexicans Abroad, said the task they are expecting the next president, Republican or Democrat, to take up soon after entering the office is to approve legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants.

"My vote is secret, but I will vote according to who I see will most help the immigration issue," said Rodela, a naturalized citizen from Mexico.

The crowd was dramatically smaller compared to a massive march in 2006 that had about a half million people walking the downtown Dallas streets.


Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk in Houston, Jim Vertuno in Austin and Elizabeth White in San Antonio contributed to this report.


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Associated Press


Thousands rally in May Day effort for immigration reform


By SOPHIA TAREEN – 16 hours ago

CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of chanting, flag-waving activists rallied in cities across the country Thursday, attempting to reinvigorate calls for immigration reform in a presidential election year in which the economy has taken center stage.

From Washington to Miami to Los Angeles, activists demanded citizenship opportunities for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and an end to raids and deportations.

"We come here to fight for legalization. We're people. We have rights," said Eric Molina, an undocumented factory worker who immigrated to Zion, Ill., from Mexico.

Molina, his sister and his 13-year-old daughter Erika, a U.S. citizen, were among about 15,000 people who rallied in Chicago in one of the largest demonstrations of the day.

Turnout has fallen sharply since the first nationwide rallies in 2006, when more than 1 million people — at least 400,000 in Chicago alone — clogged streets and brought downtown traffic to a standstill. Activists say this year's efforts are focused less on protests and more on voter registration and setting an agenda for the next president.

Some said participation likely was lower because many immigrants increasingly fear deportation.

Margot Veranes, a volunteer organizer in Tucson, Ariz., — where 12,000 took to the streets last year but early estimates Thursday put the crowd at about 500 — blamed the turnout on aggressive enforcement by Border Patrol and police.

"People have been stopped and deported in the last week. This is a community living in fear," said Veranes, a researcher for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. "You never know when you're going to be stopped by Border Patrol and now the police."

But she said that's also why people were marching.

"We're marching to end the raids and the deportations, but we're also marching for health care and education and good jobs," she said.

Steamy downtown Houston saw between 300 and 400 marchers, including Victor Ibarra, 38, who said he entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico 15 years ago and remains undocumented although he's tried to attain legal status for the past seven years.

"I'm here because we need immigration reform immediately," Ibarra said, wearing handcuffs and chains. "We need to be able to travel and be free."

In Washington, immigrant rights groups and social justice organizations were demanding that Prince William County, in northern Virginia, rescind its anti-illegal immigration measure. They also called for an end to raids and deportations and for establishment of worker centers in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

Activists also asked the Republican and Democratic national committees to have their presidential candidates enact immigration reform.

A crowd of about 1,000 gathered on the steps of the Oregon Capitol in Salem to call for changes in immigration and workplace laws within the first 100 days of the next congressional session. Many demanded that Oregon reverse a decision, imposed by the Legislature in February, to require proof of legal residence to get a driver's license.

Hugo Orozzo, a 17-year-old high school senior, was among hundreds who marched through the streets of southwest Detroit. He was born in the U.S., but his father was born in Mexico and some other family members are originally from Mexico.

"It is going to help my family and friends," Orozzo said of the effort. He carried a preprinted sign that read: "Stop raids and deportations that separate families!" in both English and Spanish.

In Miami, 75 people marched to the regional immigration offices from the Little Haiti neighborhood. Among them was Elvira Carbajal, who came from Mexico more than a decade ago and is a U.S. citizen but said many of her family members are not.

"They are going to grow up with this anger of the government for the loss of their parents, parents who were simply trying to give them a better life," she said.

In San Francisco, protesters Marta Acuchi and her husband Jose, from Michoacan, Mexico, closed their child daycare center to march with about 400 others.

"We need to fix the legal situation of immigrants," she said. "Even if it's not this year legislators are seeing we're still here, we're still marching, we're still knocking on their door."

And in Milwaukee, factory worker Miguel Tesillos, 29, was among hundreds who lined sidewalks waiting for the march to begin.

"Our people, we pay taxes, we pay the same as a citizen," said Tesillos, who has a Green Card. "Maybe the new president can see this point, and do something for us."

But activists say they know it will be a challenge to push their issues to the political forefront.

Immigration reform did not resonate with voters in primary elections who overwhelmingly listed the economy as their top concern. Immigration legislation has stalled and been defeated in the Senate, and presidential candidates have not extensively addressed the issues.

Democratic presidential rivals Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supported a 2006 bill, sponsored by Republican candidate John McCain, that offered illegal immigrants legal status on conditions such as learning English. All three also have supported a border fence.

In Chicago, 17-year-old Celeste Rodarte marched with a group of her friends from the city's West Side. She said her parents came to the United States more than 20 years ago and became citizens last year.

"I know a lot of people who don't have papers and I want to help them out," Rodarte said.

Seventh-grader Vicente Campos of Milwaukee was granted an excused absence from school to attend the march. He said he was concerned by stories of immigration officials separating parents and children.

"Immigrants come here to support their families in Mexico," said Campos, 13. "They're not all here to do crimes."

Associated Press Writers Caryn Rousseau in Chicago, David Runk in Detroit, Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee, Arthur H. Rotstein in Tucson, Ariz., Joseph B. Frazier in Salem, Ore., Mike Graczyk in Houston, Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami, Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco and Jacquelyn Martin in Washington D.C. contributed to this report.


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Washington Post


Union and states try recruiting farm workers from Mexico

The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 29, 2008; 4:55 AM

HURON, Calif. -- Weary of waiting for Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, the United Farm Workers hopes to recruit Mexican laborers to pick crops on U.S. farms.

The union's efforts to import temporary workers under an existing government program follows similar moves by lawmakers in Arizona and Colorado, who are also trying to create new pathways to bring in foreign field hands without approval from Washington.

This month, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez signed an agreement with the governor of the Mexican state of Michoacan to help recruit local residents to apply for temporary jobs on U.S. farms, all of which would be covered under union contracts.

Under the new pact, government field staff in Michoacan will distribute information on U.S. labor protections, especially in rural towns known for sending a large number of their residents north.

In exchange, the union will negotiate contracts with U.S. growers willing to guarantee that legal workers' rights will be respected on both sides of the border, UFW International Director Erik Nicholson said.

The UFW got involved after hearing that Mexican recruiters were charging people as much as $5,000 for short-term contracts under the existing, but rarely used federal guest worker program, Nicholson said.

"Agriculture is a global industry, so we're building an international infrastructure to advocate for these global workers," Nicholson said. "Workers need to know about their rights on both sides of the border."

Immigration raids and employer penalties have led to a shortage of workers in the nation's largest farm states, leading many in the agriculture industry to conclude that growers can't get their products to market without a stable supply of workers from abroad.

But with Congress deadlocked over immigration reform, the question is under what conditions the workers will be hired _ legally or illegally.

The farm labor force in the U.S. currently numbers about 1.6 million people, 70 percent of whom are thought to be undocumented, according to people in the industry. Only about 70,000 farm workers were brought in from abroad last year for the short stints permitted under H2-A visas issued by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The UFW wants to increase those numbers by matching willing workers in Mexico with U.S. farmers ready to use the H2-A program. That would in turn help grow the union's membership, which has been in decline.

Legislators in Arizona are considering a proposal that would let employers recruit workers through Mexican consulates, if they could document a labor shortage. A similar Colorado bill aims to help chili and watermelon farmers hire foreign staff by eliminating the bottlenecks in the federal program.

Both put the Labor Department in an awkward position, and could be challenged in court, said Leon Sequeira, its assistant secretary for policy.

"I don't think anybody would object to organizations trying to prevent recruiters from charging workers exorbitant fees," Sequeira said. "But it's new territory when you are talking about states setting up their own guest worker programs and letting aliens into the country."

The federal government is trying to stave off the state-by-state approach by tinkering with its existing guest worker program, and released a set of proposed changes in February.


WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) _ Washington tree fruit buds have been hit by some of the worst frost in years, but crops had been expected to be so large that harvests will be about the same as last season, industry officials say.

Despite an unusually cold spring and record low temperatures in some areas, losses do not appear to be widespread, although damage may be significant in isolated areas of Eastern Washington's fruit-growing region.

"This is one of the worst frost seasons we've had in the last 15 to 20 years, but frost protection appears to have been pretty effective in most areas," said Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.

"With huge bud set, we can afford to lose 10 to 15 percent and still have a good crop," Mayer said. Some growers had no damage and others had up to 75 percent crop loss, he said.

Damage appears greater to cherries than pears and apples because cherries were further along in bud development. Apple growers had anticipated a record 105 million- to 110 million-box apple crop this fall, but now it likely will be closer to last year's 98 million boxes, Mayer said.


<><><> the end / el fin / tamat <><><>


Arnoldo Garcia

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados

310 8th Street Suite 303

Oakland, CA 94607

Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305

Fax (510) 465-1885


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