Sí se puede! Immigrants and allies march for immigrant rights

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On a sunny Saturday afternoon in south Minneapolis, about 400 Latino immigrants and their families, students, and members of the activist community marched for immigrant rights on February 16.

Chanting “Sí se puede” and carrying banners that read “No human being is illegal” and “We are all immigrants in the struggle,” the marchers walked several blocks from the corner of Chicago and Lake to the Walker Community Church as a response to immigration proposals presented by Governor Pawlenty January 7.

Pawlenty’s immigration proposals include an end to what he calls sanctuary cities in the state, targeting ordinances in Minneapolis and St Paul that say local government employees, including police, do not enforce federal immigration laws. Pawlenty also called for review of all drivers licenses and identification cards already issued by the state, and training in federal immigration enforcement for local and state police, who would work alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Employers would be required to re-verify workers social security numbers through a national electronic program called e-Verify, and would be fined $5,000 for hiring undocumented workers.

Public Meeting to Plan May Day 2008

WHAT: A public meeting of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAC) to begin planning for this year’s May Day immigrant rights activities and mobilizations.

WHEN: Wednesday, February 20th at 6 pm

WHERE: Waite House Community Center
2529 13th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

www.mnimmigrantrights.net

At the march and rally, advocates pointed out that these proposals, instead of solving problems, create an environment of fear, terrorize families, divide the communities and violate the rights of all workers. Among the points they made were:
• Many businesses, fearing federal investigations, are already using these policies as a pretext for terminating workers.
• Hundreds of lay offs are already happening, and thousands more workers could be displaced.
• Companies could be vulnerable to all types of discrimination lawsuits.
• These policies will seriously damage an already failing economy and will violate labor and civil rights of workers.

“We are here to say no to Governor Pawlenty’s anti-worker proposals, to make our voices be heard and to demand that immigrant rights are respected,” said Veronica Mendez, of Workers’ Interfaith Network.

A skit at the rally reminded people what to do to protect their civil rights in the case of an immigration raid. Local advocates, members of the immigration rapid response team, have been organizing trainings to prepare immigrants on what to do when ICE arrives at the door. They quickly respond to assist families with information and lawyer referrals. In Latino neighborhoods, like Lake Street in south Minneapolis, children are afraid to go out of their homes and parents no longer trust their local cops. Although most people are unaware, for immigrants, raids are a constant fear.

“When somebody knocks at my door, I assume it is a friend, but thousands of people in the Latino immigrant community are terrorized of a knock in their door.” says Kristen Melby of Witness for Peace.

“People are taken from their home under false pretenses,” Melby said. “ICE agents tell them that they are looking for somebody else. Some people are kept for months in detention. Next thing, the family hears from their loved one in a phone call from Mexico. When somebody of power is using racism as a policy, there needs to be a response. As a society, at what point do we say this is enough?”

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