By LISA LUINENBERG
— ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Saturday, Jan. 20, close to 1000 people marched in 30-degree weather here to commemorate one year of struggle against the Trump administration. Responding to the call, “No Human Being is Illegal,” the marchers gathered outside of the Ramsey County Detention Center, which houses immigrants awaiting deportation.
The detention center has been a target for local activists for years, especially after a 30-year-old Ecuadorian woman died in detention there in 2006. Just one day earlier, an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Ramsey County Detention Center will stop housing immigrants in the jail at the end of January, due to low reimbursement rates from ICE.
But the issue of immigrant detentions and deportations is far from being resolved. The detainees who were once housed in Ramsey County will now be moved to other county jails in Minnesota, farther away from their families. And the Ramsey County sheriff’s department continues to notify ICE when people whom ICE wants to take into custody are being released, even if these people have never been charged with a crime.
According to the Star Tribune, the St. Paul ICE office has detained around 3400 people through September 2017, an almost 70% increase from the same period the year before.
These and other issues that affect immigrants were the focus of the recent protest in St. Paul, which was primarily organized by Immigrant Movement for Justice, a new local coalition led by immigrants in the Twin Cities area. Socialist Action participates in the coalition. The march was attended by a mix of younger and older people—Brown, Black, and white—and was endorsed by over 30 organizations, including the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter St. Paul, the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, 15 Now Minnesota, Morena Minnesota, Take a Knee Nation, and many other local immigrant and social justice groups.
Immigrant Movement for Justice organizers reported that the march had gained broad support and peaked a lot of interest in the local community as it was being built. The demands of the march included: Stop all deportations NOW! Legalization for ALL workers, students and their families NOW! Housing for ALL! Defend Muslims! Stop the Ban! Defend #DACA! Defend #TPS for Salvadorans and Haitians! Raise the Minimum Wage ($15 or More)!
The speakers at the opening and closing rallies reflected these demands and included Latino, Hmong, Haitian, and Filipino immigrants, women, Blacks, socialists, DACA recipients, and other local activists. After the opening rally, the protesters took to the streets of St. Paul and marched to the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center for the closing rally to hear more speakers and enjoy traditional Haitian and Mexican dances.
These demands have been gaining not only local but national prominence due to Trump’s constant attacks against immigrants and attempts from politicians on both sides of the aisle to tighten national security against immigrants they label as “dangerous.” This has included proposals to tighten border security and extend the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Racial tensions have remained high as racist groups have gained more prominence since Trump took office a year ago.
These are all tactics the ruling class uses to attempt to drive a wedge between white, Brown, and Black workers, and between those with documents and those without in order to divide the power of the working class. But these attempts were rejected at the march in St. Paul, as workers of different ethnic backgrounds and speaking different languages marched side by side to demand their rights.
Immigrant Movement for Justice hopes to build on the momentum of the recent march to organize an even bigger protest in the Twin Cities on May 1. It will be actions such as these, not watered down legislation proposed by politicians, that will win real gains for immigrants in the coming months.
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