In The News
May 1 march urges real attention to immigration reform
On May 1, Voces de la Frontera will hold a statewide civil rights march – moving beyond the familiar theme of “A Day Without Latinos” to create a new rallying cry for immigration reform, “First 100 Days.”
This is the third mass march organized by the immigrants rights group and workers center. There are growing reasons and determination behind this one, since Voces has watched D.C. fail to move ahead on comprehensive immigration reform, even though called for by both Democrats and Republicans.
This year’s marches have a discomforting backdrop -- a surge in local and state anti-immigrant legislation, most failing but still notable for the persistence.
Polls confirm little interest in the electorate about the constant slamming of illegal immigrant families among us, though solving the immigration issue is important to all sides of the discussion.
And still, anti-immigration rhetoric has helped create a marked rise in raids and employer crackdowns since the Bush administration abandoned reform legislation last June, noted Voces executive director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
This year’s march sends a message to the inevitable new president (all three of the remaining candidates have pledged various degrees of reform) and to the departing current administration.
“We are calling on the next president to make dignified and just immigration legislation a priority for the first one hundred days, and to commit to providing the leadership needed to fix our dysfunctional and discriminatory immigration system,” said Neumann-Ortiz.
“We are calling on the current administration to stop tearing families apart through immigration raids and to end the criminalization of workers and employers through ‘No Match’ attacks.”
The Milwaukee marchers assemble at 10.30 a.m. that Thursday May 1 at S. 5th and Washington (near Voces headquarters) and proceed to a rally at Veteran’s Park. Among the speakers there between entertainment will be David Newby, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.
No boycotts of businesses are planned for this march, nor are businesses being asked to shut down. Employers are being asked to give workers time off (a few hours) to participate and Voces has prepared letters to that effect for employees to present to companies.
There is already strong support in the business community. The Wisconsin Restaurant Association has voiced its alarm over the economic dangers posed by current policies and called on the White House and Congress “to view employers as partners in economic growth and job creation instead of as adversaries in the immigration debate.”
Although nationally the economy points to 134 million jobs in 2007, only 10,000 green cards were made available for service industry workers, the association noted.
This imbalance has also distressed another march supporter, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which argues that every reality of the situation just reinforces the need for intelligent reform.
Voces has noted a significant increase in local families impacted by immigration raids, but Neumann-Ortiz doesn’t believe that fear will keep people from marching (though the novelty of such marches has worn off, which inevitably makes momentum harder to maintain).
“People want change, people want justice,” she noted.
It is also a tradition enshrined in the Constitution. Unions, civil rights groups and many others over the centuries have petitioned for redress of grievances. The greater the threat, the more the determination. For the injured, neglected or demeaned on the home front, there is no backing down.