May 1, 2008: Yes, we can!

Many cities across the nation are organizing mass marches on May 1 as part of a national day of action for a just legalization and an immediate stop to the raids and repression against immigrant families.

The May 1st tradition started in the United States as an international day that recognizes the rights of workers worldwide.

On May 1, 2008 we are counting on everyone who participated in the previous marches, and more, to send another strong message to the world—that we have not stopped fighting, we have not lost our dignity nor courage, and we will keep fighting until our humanity is recognized.

It was the mass marches that squashed the Sensenbrenner bill, HR 4437. This legislation would have turned every undocumented person-including children-into an aggravated felon (the same as a homicide or drug or arms trafficker) and any person of conscience -such as priests and pastors, lawyers, doctors, teachers, family and friends– that knew of someone’s immigration status and did not report them, into felons.

Community agencies like Voces de la Frontera, labor unions, and churches would have been illegal organizations for providing information to undocumented workers about their rights. The bill passed by a majority vote in the House and President Bush sent a memo to the Senators asking for a speedy vote so he could sign HR 4437 into law.

The wave of marches put an end to that plan and finally opened a national conversation on legalization with a path to citizenship. The three presidential candidates now left for the November 2008 elections all support or supported immigration reform.

It’s important to remember that in our darkest hour, no politician came to save us; we saved ourselves. Though we have not yet achieved a just legalization, we must continue to organize and march because the changes we seek will not be achieved overnight. If we doubt the power of our unity to achieve change; then we will lose an opportunity to win and define the kind of legalization we want.

The May 1st demands this year are more comprehensive of the needs of all low-wage workers: stop the raids & separation of families, just legalization, access to drivers’ licenses, stop Social Security No Match letters, fair international trade agreements for workers, good jobs and health care for all, and end to the war in Iraq

Despite efforts to isolate the immigrant rights struggle from a larger struggle, the truth is that the struggle for immigrant rights has been, and always will be, part of a larger social justice struggle against poverty and inequality.

In 2007 Milwaukee organized the only march in the country that increased its turn-out over the mass marches of the previous year. In 2007 between 80,000-95,000 people marched in the streets of Milwaukee compared to 70,000 in 2006. Brothers and sisters in the struggle, on May 1, 2008, yes, we can!