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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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Immigrants celebrate change

One day after President Obama’s inauguration, immigrants are stepping right up to ensure that their issues get attention from the new administration, holding actions in Washington D.C., Chicago, and elsewhere.

On January 21 in Washington, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and groups from across the country, including members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, will march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

There 200 religious leaders will perform traditional cleaning ceremonies from various faiths, intended “to mark the end of enforcement-only immigration policies and celebrate the new momentum for just and humane immigration reform and worker justice,” according to a statement. A rally at Westminster Presbyterian Church follows.

“We want to transform our society so that workers don’t have to fear raids, families stay together, and no one lives in the shadows,” according to the FIRM statement. “We want workers to have the freedom to organize and demand fundamental change. Everyone in this country must be entitled to dignity and due process. Our country must welcome the contributions and cultures of immigrants from all over the world, and celebrate the vitality they bring to our country.”

In Chicago, local members of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at Casa Michoacan, 1638 S. Blue Island, to urge the new president to “launch a long-overdue transformation of the nation’s immigration policies,” said Claudia Lucero of Durango Unido, a Mexican-American hometown association.

They’ll call on the administration to stop workplace raids which leave “a lot of families…scared to go to work” and “worried when they drop their kids at school whether they can pick them up,” Lucero said. They’ll call for action on a backlog of many years for applications for residency and citizenship which puts immigrants in jeapordy. And they’ll call for a “just and humane immigration reform that leads to legalization for families working and paying taxes in the United States,” she said.

Lucero said NALACC members have already joined other groups in meeting with the immigration committee of the presidential transition team, and were told “immigration issues are still a priority for Mr. Obama,” Lucero said.

At noon on the 21st, ICIRR and the Ya Basta Coalition will rally at the local office of ICE, 55 E. Monroe, to demand a moratorium on raids and deportations. Then they’ll march to the Federal Plaza and hold an interfaith service at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

Immigrants get out the vote

Coming off a registration drive which signed up 25,000 new voters, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Reform is holding a massive get-out-the-vote rally Monday night at Teamster City.

Hundreds of new voters are expected, along with Mayor Richard Daley, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and U.S. Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Danny Davis. It takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, October 27, at Teamsters City Auditorium, 300 S. Ashland.

Last week ICIRR, Univision Radio, the Mikva Challenge, and others announced a partnership to train high school seniors as Immigrant Election Monitors. They’ll conduct exit polls to provide data on immigrant voting attitudes for Univision’s live election coverage.

The number of foreign born citizens in Illinois increased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2007, with growth concentrated in Chicago suburbs, according to a new national report (pdf) unveiled last week by ICIRR. In that period, suburban Cook County saw an increase of 55,000 foreign-born citizens and a loss of 45,000 U.S.born citizens, according to ICIRR’s new Immigrant Political Almanac (pdf).

Immigrants could be decisive in eight Illinois congressional districts where they account for more than ten percent of voters; in the 14th district, the number of Latino and Asian voters is ten times the margin of victory in the special election last spring.

Launch immigrant voter drive

Hundreds of immigrants will apply for citizenship at a massive citizenship workshop Saturday morning as part of the launch of the New Americans Vote 2008 campaign.

The workshop is at 9 a.m. at Foreman High School, 235 N. LeClaire.  At 10:30, Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky will join local and national immigrant leaders for a kickoff event.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is working with the Center for Community Change and other organizations on a 14-state organizing effort to mobilize the immigrant vote.

At the kickoff ceremony, 60 organizing fellows will be presented as they leave for a six-day organizing boot camp training, in prepartion for volunteer recruitment and voter registration and turnout efforts in states including Florida, California, Colorado, New York, Nebraska, and Oregon.

Hundreds of new citizens will also be on hand, along with volunteers to help them register to vote.

“The immigrant vote will be crucial this Election year, and immigrants are eager to show their political power by voting in large numbers this November,” said Lawrence Benito, associate director of ICIRR.



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