Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March 25 The protest against bill HR4437

This a local reporting of the peaceful demonstration against bill HR4437. For those of you who do not know, this law would make it felony for anyone to aid or help an illegal immigrant, as well as it would place harsher restrictions on illegal immigrants(including making it a felony to be undocumented) in this country. I have my own thoughts and will be adding them soon! In support of our many neighbors and in how this bill would effect the work we are doing in LA, our team participated in this event.

500,000 Rally In LA For Immigrants' Rights
No Arrests Or Injuries Reported

POSTED: 10:17 am PST March 24, 2006
UPDATED: 7:48 pm PST March 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- Members of the United Farm Workers union rallied Sunday to mark union founder Cesar Chavez's birthday and to protest a pending federal legislation aimed at stopping illegal immigration. About 4,000 people marched through downtown.

The rally came a day after one of the biggest demonstrations ever in downtown Los Angeles. An estimated 500,000 people jammed the streets around City Hall on Saturday, many chanting "Si se puede," or yes, we can.

In addition to unions and Latino groups, such as La Hermandad Nacional Mexicano, Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony drew attention to pending immigration reforms a few weeks ago when he announced that he would encourage his priests to render aid to immigrants even if that were outlawed.At issue is HR 4437, a sweeping immigration reform bill expected to be debated on the Senate floor on Monday.

The UFW rally advocated for "the need for immigration reform that respects the dignity of every human being in the U.S. and therefore (we are) calling for the legalization of the undocumented who are here," union activist Alvaro Huerta said.

Activists marched to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a 2:30 p.m. Mass in honor of Chavez.

Participants pledged "support for meaningful immigration reform" and oppose "inhumane legislation such as recent action by the U.S. House of Representatives that would make felons out of undocumented immigrants and those who help them," Mark Grossman of the UFW said.

Despite the huge crowds on Saturday -- veteran police officers said it was biggest demonstation they had ever seen -- no serious problems were reported. Police did declare a tactical alert, but that was done chiefly to ensure enough officers would be available for crowd control work.

No arrests were made, police said.

One counter-demonstrator was pushed to the ground and escorted away by police, and an American flag went up in flames on Broadway near Seventh Street.

Javier Rodriguez, one of the organizers of the rally, said the demonstration was meant to be nonviolent.

"We appealed from the beginning of the process for a peaceful demonstration of the anger and the frustration, but at the same time, the aspirations of the immigrant community and the rest of the sectors that support immigrants," he said.

He said some people estimated the crowd at closer to a million people, and that planning began just three weeks ago for the rally, which was done on a $5,000 budget.

He also noted that the American flag was burned far away from where speakers were orating at City Hall, and that organizers had no idea who the flag-burner was.

The House bill by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis, would stiffen penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and those who smuggle them across the border, among other things.

One sore point for demonstrators is a provision that would make illegal immigration a felony -- a deportable offense.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who rose to power through union organizing, addressed the crowd at City Hall.

"We cannot criminalize people who are working, people who are contributing to our economy and contributing to the nation," he said.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, also attended the rally.

"We believe in the American dream, and all we want is that dream to be made available to all who work hard and want to benefit from it," Nunez said. "We don't want a handout -- what we are looking for is sensible legislation."

HR 4437 also would require employers to verify Social Security numbers with the Department of Homeland Security, increase penalities for immigrant smuggling, and stiffen penalities for undocumented immigrants who reenter the United States after being deported. If passed, it would also authorize $2 billion to build barriers along the entire Mexico border.

"The fence is not the answer," said Hilda Delgado of the Coalition for Immigration Reform Los Angeles, one of the event organizers. "The solution is immigration reform. Help these people. They are already working here. Some of them have been here 10, 15, 20 years. They live here. Their kids are from here. They keep this economy going. They pay taxes."
President Bush has been pushing for a guest worker program, but does not support amnesty for undocumented immigrants because he says it would effectively reward law breakers, putting them ahead of immigrants who seek enter the country legally.

Many illegal immigrants have children who are citizens by virtue of their being born on U.S. soil, and some activists have expressed fear that mass deportations would separate families.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who immigrated from Austria, was at Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades for the unveiling of Rogers' just-restored home.

"You cannot continue just avoiding it and looking the other way and pretending like the problem doesn't exist," he said. "We have a serious problem. It affects our state. They should secure and they should do everything they can to solve this problem."

He also said he would support guest worker program, but only in a controlled situation.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he supports Sensenbrenner's bill.

"I feel it deals effectively with the catastrophic effects illegal immigration have had on the county," Antonovich said. "It provides the necessary penalities and reforms that are now lacking and which have created a magnet for illegals to enter our country."

But protest organizer Rodriguez said undocumented immigrants are essential to America's labor force and should not be criminalized. He and other speakers called for an economic boycott under which immigrants would stay home from work to show how important they are to the economy and everyday life.

"The national economic boycott is a dream of Latinos in this country to show the people who are anti-immigrant that we are needed," said Rodriguez, who compared the march to the black civil rights movement. "It's like the boycott in Montgomery (Alabama). It's the same thing."

"We will not accept less on the immigration reform than the path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants that are in this country," Rodriguez said.

"When we look the other way when the people wash our cars, take care of our children, clean our homes, we all know that most of these people do not have any documentation, so it is a double standard in terms of both nations, but both nations need undocumented immigration," said protester Carlos Zavala.

"We're not felons," demonstrator Carmela Constancio told NBC4. "A felon is someone who rapes a child. A felon is a drug dealer. People who just want to live and work are not felons."

Friday, thousands of students from Huntington Park, South Gate, Montebello, Jordan, Garfield, Roosevelt, Washington Preparatory and Bell high schools staged walkouts to protest the bill, and a delegation of 35 Southern California religious leaders will fly to Washington, D.C., today to urge Senators to oppose the measure. CNS-03-26-2006 05:08

Rally Planned For Saturday


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