Rallies aim to boost immigration

By Danielle Jackson

More than two million immigrants and supporters are expected to participate in rallies May 1 as part of an effort to boycott selling or purchasing American-made goods and services.

Throughout “The Great American Boycott 2006” or “National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice” – International Labor Day in every country except the U.S. and Canada – those protesting also plan to take the day off from work or school.

The protest, born from a grassroots movement in the Hispanic community that has spread throughout Latin America and elsewhere, is in response to a bill in the U.S. House on immigration reform that Hispanic advocates say will harm any chance for immigrants to build lives for themselves in the U.S.

The House passed the bill, HR4437, known as the “Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005,” in December.

If passed by the Senate, the bill calls for creating up to 700 miles of fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico, barring asylum-seekers convicted of minor offenses from permanent legal residence and eventual citizenship, and treating document fraud as an aggravated felony subject to deportation.

“What we’ve seen is a manifestation of our community’s disappointment and what came out of the House in December, and the lack of action that’s coming from the Senate,” says Zulayka Santiago, executive director of El Pueblo, a statewide advocacy group based in Raleigh, N.C. “We’re seeing it in marches, rallies, walkouts and boycotts.”

Ilana Dubester, interim executive director of Hispanic Liaison, based in Siler City, N.C., says the rallies are a community-based response to the proposed legislation.

“It’s the community calling on us to support them,” she says.

Both groups are among a growing number calling for comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Hispanic Liaison is preparing letters for employers and schools to inform them of events, asking them not to fire employees and urging them to shut down business for the day.

El Pueblo is working to ensure that community members have appropriate information and understand the potential repercussions of participating.

May 1 will be the second of two protest events held throughout the U.S.

The first, held April 10 in various cities, including Siler City, with more than 10,000 people participating.

“It was surprising when looking at the list of all states organizing events April 10,” Dubester says. “California had 21 events, and North Carolina came in second with 13 events. This movement has spread like wildfire.”

That level of participation, she says, shows that the Latino community is ready and willing to mobilize for change.

“This is not just affecting employees, it’s affecting employers,” Dubester says. “Imagine what will happen if the bill goes into effect and 11 million people are deported. It’s a national issue that impacts everyone greatly.”


* In North Carolina, a rally will begin at 3:30 p.m. May 1 at the Melvin Municipal Building on Tate Street near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For information, Julie Southerland at 336. 420.3987. Another will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lumberton Fairgrounds. Contact Emma Herrera at 910).843.1671. For a complete listing of events held throughout the country, click here.

* For information on additional marches and rallies taking place throughout the state, click here.

* The 11th annual El Foro Latino will be held May 20-21 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The statewide gathering of more than 400 Latino advocates, service providers, policymakers and others will include workshops. For information, contact Louisa Warren.

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