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News :: Labor : Race : Social Welfare
Solidarity shines through on a rainy May Day, Part 2
03 May 2005
Sunday, May 1st BOSTON- Felix Arroyo, Maria Elena Letona of Centro Presente, and many others spoke in front of a damp but festive crowd of more than 500 representing immigrant communities from all over Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts this Sunday in Copley Square. For this one day a year and, as one young speaker expressed, hopefully for the other 364, widely disparate immigrant communities joined together to address and rally around the issues that affect them all.

Counter protestors did show up, but were largely ignored at their spot far to one side of the rally, save for the corporate press who can’t resist portraying every political story as a perfectly evenly balanced battle of wits. Sorry, not this time.

What I saw was a building of community. People who, usually divided by neighborhood, disparate needs, cultures, or languages, came together to address some issues common to all.
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Central to the minds of the builders was passing key legislation that would expand immigrants access to services the rest of us take for granted. Driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, and health care for low-income individuals and families.

Currently, immigrants who do not have a social security number or citizenship status cannot obtain drivers licenses. There are 150,000 such people in Massachusetts. This is not only a hindrance to some, but a public health hazard to all because unlicensed drivers do not have insurance, said Mayor Menino, speaking at the event. “Even the most conservative states, like Utah, gives immigrants the right to have a license.” Menino supports the bill.

The best and brightest in immigrant communities are denied access to in-state tuitions, and sometimes they are denied any access at all if their status is unclear. The in-state tuition bill would allow all Massachusetts high school graduates who attended high school for at least 3 years to apply as in-state residents. Governor Romney vetoed the bill June but it has been reintroduced.

A related Federal bill called the DREAM act would eliminate the federal provision that advises states not to give in-state tuition. Although the Bush administration tried to block its entry into congress this will be reintroduced in the Senate in the coming weeks.

Federal Medicaid health care benefits were dropped for all “special status” immigrants in 1996. This covers people applying for asylum. 10,000 people were dropped, 1800 in Boston. This law would restore coverage for them, 3000 are elderly or disabled, many more have small children.

For more information on these and other current immigration issues, you would so well to check out the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Program’s website at http://www.miracoalition.org.

The history of May Day is deeply intertwined with immigrants and immigrant rights. The sacrifices made by Immigrants played a major role in the history of May Day, as most of the five Martyrs who fought and hung for the eight-hour day were German immigrants. That tradition of labor organizing in the immigrant community is still remembered today.

“May first is a workers day,” said Felix Arroyo in an interview with IndymediaTV. “My mother was a union member. She helped me understand how important it was for her and her work to be unionized for fairness and justice.”

One small marginalized crowd at Sunday’s event did not particularly like the idea or sentiment of may day, nor did they like immigrants. They were particularly against a united call for immigrant amnesty also put forward at the event, similar to the amnesty given to immigrants in the 1980’s.

Dan Hall and wife Judy say they take a strong stand against illegal immigration, wanting to limit all immigration to “around 200,000” a year. “The country’s population is going to double in the next sixty years,” says Dan, “and I’m not sure that this country can absorb that many people.” His wife works with FAIR. No, not Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, but the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that fights against immigrant rights. A current campaign on their website is one against a bill that would allow immigrants who have paid into the Social Security system to also collect from it.

Judy says she takes walks “Every morning I walk through our neighborhood and all the landscape and construction people I see are ‘illegals.’ And then our young people can’t find jobs.” She reasons.

Many of Dan and Judy Hall’s friends held anti immigrant signage and wore U.S. Border Patrol caps picked up in Arizona recently.

“The right wing feels more confident now with bush in office,” says Steve Rosenthal, who attended the event with the ISO, “they feel like they can do whatever they want and it’s incumbent on us to organize to stop them. The democrat’s sure won’t”

It’s true that many at the rally felt a growing sense of persecution in post 9-11 America. According to a representative of the Brazilian Immigration Center, out of an estimated 230,000 Brazilians in Massachusetts, 3,000 were arrested in 2003, 4,000 in 2004, and from October 2004 to April 2005 10,000 arrests of Brazilians have been made. Yet immigration still denies that Brazilians are a targeted community.

Hamza Pelletier of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, says he hears about anti-Muslim discrimination all the time from people he meets in Massachusetts. Every thing from bullet holes in mosques and beatings of individuals, to the story of a boy whose teacher purposely loses his homework.

The flavor of this day however, was not oppression or persecution but empowerment.

“It’s like in Aesop’s fable, you bring a small branch, the smallest child can break it in half. You bring 10 branches bound together, the strongest man cannot break it,” said Hamza Pelletier, member of the Muslim American Society

_______________

A list of participants:

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian Community at Tufts, Boston Mobilization, Brazilian Immigrant Center, Centro Presente, Community Church of Boston, East Boston Ecumenical Community Council, Irish Immigration Center, Irish United for Immigrant Rights, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Global Action, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation Boston, North American Alliance for Fair Employment, Painters District Council 35, SEIU Local 615, SEIU Local 2020, Tekiah, Tufts Association of Latin American Students, Tufts Black Men's Group, Tufts Brazilian Club, United for Justice with Peace, UNITEHERE New England Joint Board, Workmen's Circle
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Re: Solidarity shines through on a rainy May Day, Part 2
03 May 2005
Why are you including a picture of Menino? It was a slap in the face to workers throughout the city to include him at this event.
Right on
03 May 2005
It's self aggrandizing liberal pie-cards that promote rallies like this in the first place. Menino at a labor rally? Come on... this event is pure aggrandizment from the get-go. It's a shame that white liberal indymedia reporters are too blinded by the token immigrants to realize this.
Re: Solidarity shines through on a rainy May Day, Part 2
03 May 2005
The counter protesters weren't really ignored.
Massimmigration had a good table set up and were very reasonable people to talk to. Not to mention they reflected the opinions of most of the middle class without being obnoxious or racist.

Some counterprotesters also gave away a lot of magazines and definitely got their message across to the anarchists, socialists, and spartacists at the event. One disgruntled spartacist, in fact was compelled by her own inner torment to grab a popular anti-revolutionary magazine and read it even after she said there was no way in hell she wanted one.

I was greatly disappointed by the fact that the AFL-CIO and Menino were offering to get driver's licenses for illegal aliens. None of the illegal aliens spoke in favor of good American citizenship, or doing their civic duty.
Re: Solidarity shines through on a rainy May Day, Part 2
03 May 2005
token immigrants? the crowd was mostly immigrant communities, with some token supporters. menino is anti-labor, he shouldn't be allowed to talk on may day.
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04 May 2005
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06 Jun 2006
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06 Jun 2006
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06 Jun 2006
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06 Jun 2006
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