With chants of, “Obama, listen we are in the struggle” and “no legalization, no re-election” Voces de la Frontera members and supporters joined the ranks of the largest march to date under the Obama Administration; with more than 200,000 people in Washington DC calling on President Obama to make good on his promise to pass immigration reform and to demand an end to the relentless escalation of deportations and forcible separation of families that have increased under the new Administration.
According to the government’s own figures, deportations and so-called “voluntary departures” have increased by 5% in 2009 resulting in the deportation of 367,790 immigrants (around 1,000 a day); 70% of which are for noncriminal offenses.
Indeed, DHS just announced plans to increase quotas for deportations of non-criminal immigrants and to “fill every bed” in detention centers. Fueling this crime is the corporate influence of the private for profit prison industry and defense industry that have profited mightily in recent years as the criminalization of low income people of color has escalated. Organizers of the march are now calling for President Obama to fire DHS spokesperson, John Morton.
Who are these non-criminals? Students marching for the right to pursue their dreams of higher education; workers, such as Omar Damian Ortega, facing deportation because he stood up for his rights as a worker; family members caught in immigration backlogs waiting years for their visas to arrive; a traffic violation or increased racial profiling.
In response to the organizer’s demands and in anticipation of the mass march, President Obama reiterated his support for immigration reform; supporting the framework for a Senate bipartisan bill proposed by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Graham (R-SC) prior to the march.
The framework includes:
requiring a biometric Social Security card (digital information about physical characteristics) for all workers applying for a job to verify identity and immigration status;
national expansion of the E-Verify system ( a system that uses immigration and social security databases to verify a worker’s status);
more border and interior enforcement;
temporary worker visas; and
a legalization process for immigrants already here that would be require people to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes, pass background checks, be proficient in English, and go “to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.”
In a sense, we are fortunate that a Senate bill has not yet been introduced because we have the opportunity to fight for a better framework; including opposing any effort to criminalize immigrants and expansion of the flawed E-Verify system that relies on imperfect databases and will lead to misidentifications of workers with legal status.
The next step, following the DC march is to mobilize during the Congressional Spring Recess, March 29-April 9th, when politicians come to their home states to meet with their constituents.
Voces de la Frontera and state allies are organizing a campaign during the Spring Recess to deliver emptied milk containers with printed postcards that say, “Milk: Not Without Immigrants” to the local offices of Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold, to ensure that a Senate bill is introduced this year that is simple, affordable, has a clear path to citizenship, and respects workers and their families. Equally necessary is the call to hold DHS accountable and an end to the terror that is being inflicted in immigrant working class communities.
In addition, Voces de la Frontera needs your help to start organizing for the May 1st mobilization as part of a national Day of Action for immigrant rights.
This post is also available in: Spanish