National Day of Action: Immigrant rights supporters protest attacks

feb-2017-chi-immigration-2By MARK UGOLINI

— CHICAGO — Over 1000 immigration rights activists and supporters packed the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) hall on Jan. 14 to protest attacks on immigrants and refugees, and new Republican administration plans to continue and escalate harassment and mass deportations.

The event was part of a National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights, with protests in more than 70 cities that mobilized thousands from Washington and Miami to Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Albuquerque. The actions were organized in response to the widespread wave of racist rhetoric during the election campaign and new attacks planned on immigrants and refugees, including Donald Trump’s pledges to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and to crack down on Muslims entering the U.S.

The largest event took place in Washington, D.C., where several thousand from throughout the Eastern U.S. converged for a rally in the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church that overflowed into the streets. The Washington protest was organized by CASA, Center for Community Change/Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Make the Road, the New York Immigration Coalition, United We Dream, and SEIU.

The Chicago rally, held in an industrial district on the West Side, was sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and supported by the CTU, Service Employee International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 88, various Teamster union locals, and some 44 community and religious organizations representing the city’s Latin American, Arab, and Asian communities.

Sponsoring organizations arranged bus transportation to the event, and the widely diverse crowd included broad representation from Muslim communities who demanded a halt to harassment and outrage over Donald Trump’s call for a Muslim registry system. Signs saying “Resistance, Unity and Respect,” “Stop the Deportations” and “No Muslim Registry” were prominently scattered throughout the crowd.

Many low-wage workers from Fight for $15 were in attendance, making a strong stand for immigration rights. One of the group’s leaders spoke at the rally and pledged on-going solidarity.

Attending with her family, Rehab Alkadi, 31, a Syrian refugee, spoke of their worries of deportation, particularly in light of Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric targeting Muslims. She spoke of how hateful, racist, and xenophobic rhetoric has the effect of “criminalizing” refugees and creates fertile ground for harassment, intimidation, and violent physical attacks against them.

Representing the Japanese American Service Committee, Michael Takada called for unity to stop the coming ramp-up of “the deportation machine,” and warned of local agencies and police departments that are nearly always complicit with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). He echoed calls of other speakers demanding local city governments provide protection for immigrants by adopting sanctuary policies to help shield them from ICE. Some U.S cities have taken steps toward this.feb-2017-chi-immigrants

Rally organizer and head of ICIRR Lawrence Benito told the Chicago Tribune that the immigrant community is not sure what specific attacks are coming next but, “We’re going to be prepared … for the fight to come.”

He said now it’s time to “join hands with immigrant, refugee, faith and labor brothers and sisters and their allies to declare, in no uncertain terms, that we will stand in the way of criminalization, mass deportation and hatred in our communities. … We are our own protectors. We will resist. We will continue to fight for dignity and respect for our communities.”

The Chicago Teachers Union was at the center of labor movement solidarity for the event. Recently, the union passed a resolution pledging full support for immigrant and refugee victims of government attacks: “The CTU will not tolerate hate or discrimination … and shares a responsibility to support and protect students and their families … [from] policy decisions made by the President Elect … and acknowledges that the policies of deporting and criminalizing immigrants are policies [Chicago Democratic Party] Mayor Rahm Emanuel devised as adviser and chief of staff of the Clinton and Obama administrations respectively.”

The CTU resolved to not “participate in or perpetuate the divisiveness created by politicians by labeling undocumented immigrants as good or bad immigrants” and to “oppose any efforts to create a Muslim registry system, build a wall, enforce massive deportations, and impose stop and frisk civil rights violations upon our communities.”

The CTU also pledged to “support rallies, marches or other actions that further protections for students and their families against harmful policies that aim to divide or incarcerate students and/or their families including but not limited to local and national protests such as those in Washington, D.C. on the 20th and the 21st for January 2017.”

For the complete CTU resolution see:

Photos of the Jan. 14 Chicago rally by AP.













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