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May Day march against deportations

With immigration reform finally under discussion in Washington, thousands of Chicagoans will be marching on May Day, focused on ending deportations and demanding legalization for all immigrants.

Immigrant rights mobilizations have become a May Day tradition in Chicago in recent years, and this year’s supporting coalition is larger than ever, said organizer Jorge Mujica.

They’ll meet and rally at 2 p.m. at Union Park, Ashland and Lake, marching to Federal Plaza, Jackson and LaSalle, for a rally at 4:30 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m, the Chicago Federation of Labor and church and labor groups will mark May Day — an international holiday commemorating the immigrant-led movement for an eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886 — at the Haymarket Monument, Randolph and Desplaines, before joining the march to the Federal Plaza.

Dramatically ramped-up deportations — 400,000 a year under the current administration — have “really galvanized the community and highlighted the need for reform,” said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.  “They have affected many, many people in our communities.”

Dragnet raids, supposedly aimed at criminals, have swept up asylum seekers, lawful permanent residents with minor infractions, and immigrants with no criminal record, many of whom spend months in detention without judicial review, human rights groups say.

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Second term: immigration, climate, foreclosures

Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

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Mexico-U.S. caravan calls for end to War on Drugs

Calling for an end to the war on drugs, a transnational caravan of Mexican and U.S. human rights activists is highlighting failed policies they say are behind horrific violence in Mexico and Chicago’s status as the “deadliest global city.”

Led by poet Javier Sicilia, the Caravan for Peace arrives in Chicago Sunday night and will hold a series of community events including a march for peace from Little Village to Lawndale on Monday evening (more below).

The goal is to give voice to the victims of the drug war – which has resulted in 60,000 murders in Mexico since 2006 and mass incarceration of minorities in the U.S. — and to draw connections between U.S. and Mexican policies around drug enforcement, immigration, and weapons smuggling that foster violence and insecurity in Mexico and in Chicago communities, said Cristina Garcia of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, which is coordinating the host committee here.

A leading literary figure in Mexico, Sicilia launched a movement to challenge the heavily militarized drug policies of President Felipe Calderon last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers.  He led a march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City that was joined by 100,000 people demanding an end to the war.

Chicago is one of 20 U.S. cities being visited by the caravan, which started in August in San Diego and will arrive in Washington DC on September 12.

Noting that Latin American leaders and communities in the U.S. have begun questioning the wisdom of drug prohibition, organizers call for a new approach to drug policy “based on citizen security and public health” and a broad discussion of options for regulating and controlling drugs.

They call for the U.S. to take steps to stop the flow of weapons in Mexico, including reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.  Researchers have linked its expiration to the upsurge in killings in Mexico.

They want financial institutions held accountable for preventing money laundering; an immediate suspension of U.S. aid to Mexico’s military and a shift in U.S. foreign aid from military assistance to human security and development; and reform of immigration policies that have criminalized migrants, militarized the border, and increased the involvement of criminal organizations in human trafficking.

Schedule

Salicia and two busloads of activists including many survivors of violence will be greeted Sunday, September 2, with a mass at St. Pius Church, 1919 S. Ashland, at 6 p.m.

Events on Monday include a community dialogue from 1 to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th, and a march at 5 p.m., starting from the Little Village Arch at 26th and Pulaski and ending with a vigil at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington.

On Tuesday there’s a press conference at City Hall at 10 a.m., followed by events at the Lutheran School of Theology, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the Albany Park Autonomous Center (full schedule here).

Chicago to host national Latino summit

Chicago will host a national Latino summit this month – a nod to the leadership role lllinois has taken on immigration issues, and an opportunity for local community leaders to influence the national Latino agenda, host committee members said Wednesday.

The sixth annual National Latino Congreso takes place May 17 to 19 at the Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western, with a youth convention planned for May 16.

“The Congreso’s timing just days before NATO – also being held in Chicago for the first time – presents a unique opportunity to explore transnational issues related to immigration and security from both a Latino and a Midwestern perspective,” according to a statement from local hosts.

The Latino political and policy convention will focus on economic justice, immigration policy, and electoral and civic engagement, said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, one of seven national organizations convening the event.

It’s structured around workshops and panels to maximize dialogue among participants, he said.  First held in 2006, previous Congresos have been held in California and Texas.

One theme that emerged at a press conference at Casa Michoacan was holding politicians accountable after they are elected.

“Latinos are more and more important in elections, but time and time again, our issues and concerns are not addressed after the election is over,” Chacon said.  “We can no longer accept lip service on our issues.”

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Chicago Spring

A May Day march and rally by Occupy Chicago on Tuesday launches the final weeks of the Chicago Spring, culminating with protests at the NATO summit later this month.

With the theme of immigrant, labor, and youth solidarity, an array of community groups and unions will rally at noon (Tuesday, May 1) at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, and march to the Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn.

Though it continues a recent Chicago tradition of immigrant rights marches on May Day going back to 2006, it was initiated by Occupy Chicago, and in particular the group’s labor committee, said Orlando Sepulvida of Occupy the Barrio.  Strong union involvement in the march is the result of interest on the part of rank-and-file union members participating in Occupy, he said.

“After six years, [the issue of immigration reform] is not resolved, and in some ways it is worse now for undocumented families,” said Sepulvida, who has been involved in the marches going back to 2006.

Questions about whether Occupy Chicago would last out its first winter were answered when an estimated 1,000 people participated in an April 7 “Freedom Festival” in Grant Park, with teach-ins on topics including non-violent direct action, the “black bloc,” NATO, and “Mayor 1 Percent’s Budget of Austerity.”

Moving to indoor quarters allowed the group to hold a steady series of educational events and strengthen a network of working committees, according to Mark Cassello at Indignant Left.  Chicago Spring and the NATO protest are making Chicago “the national hub of the Occupy movement this spring,” Costello writes.

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Immigrant youth and mental health

Youth and community organizers will join researchers and practitioners for a panel discussion exploring the unique mental health challenges faced by young people whose careers and dreams are thwarted by their immigration status.  It takes place Tuesday, November 1, at 3:30 p.m. at the Adler School of Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn.

Two recent productions of the Local Reporting Initiative deal with aspects of this issue: “Undocumented Youth: Waiting, Dreaming, and Falling Through the Cracks,” by The Gate newspaper, and “Why Are Latina Teens At-Risk for Suicide?” by Latina Voices and Mujeres Latinas.  More at communitynewsproject.org.

“Devastation and fear”: a film on Postville

A new film brings out the poignant human stories behind the headlines about the May 12, 2008 immigration raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.  Please watch this trailer:

Filmmaker Luis Argueta will speak at a Chicago screening of “abUSed: The Postville Raid,” joined by local immigration rights activists who traveled to Postville to support victims of the raid and by Rev. Steve Brackett of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville.

The screening takes place Wednesday, July 20, at 5 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street.

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‘I, too, am America’

Tomorrow…
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

–Langston Hughes

DREAM Act students from the Immigrant Youth Justice League, sons and daughters of Chicago, speaking out at the Daley Plaza on March 10, “crossing the border of fear.”




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