Hundreds Meet to Launch New Immigrant Rights Alliance

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Socialist Action/Jason Cain & Wayne McElyea/September 2006/ link

Reveals that "a number of delegates" to the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention had "close ties" to Mexico's PRD party. Rep. Luis Gutierrez - a member of the U.S. Democratic Party - attended and spoke at that convention.

The biggest and most authoritative assembly yet of immigrant rights activists debated strategy and tactics, and launched a new organization-the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights (NAIR)-at the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention, held in suburban Chicago Aug. 11-13.

...As a key leader of the first of these mega-actions (presumably a reference to the March 10 Chicago march), Jorge Mujica, recalled at the convention, "There is a new wave of immigrants coming from countries where they see marching in the streets as a form of political participation, who have a tradition of protesting. The Sensenbrenner bill was the drop that made the glass overflow."

...In Avon Park, Fla., a similar ordinance was narrowly defeated by 3-2 vote of the town council. The five-hour meeting was packed with more than 300 pro-immigrant-rights protesters, with an additional 400 protesters outside. The mobilization, organized by Immigrants United For Freedom, registered an important victory in this town of 7000 with a large immigrant community. The protesters faced a racist counter-protest by the rightwing Minutemen organization.

...To their credit, the March 10 Movement, the principal force behind demonstrations and work stoppages involving hundreds of thousands in Chicago, stepped up to the plate and issued the call for the strategy convention.

They were joined by other significant forces, such as MAPA (Mexican American Political Association, a prime mover in the huge spring actions in Los Angeles, and Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push organization, who pitched in to provide logistical support for convention preparations.

The call for the Chicago conference was based on "Ten Points of Unity":

* Unconditional legalization for ALL* No to HR4437 and similar senate version legislation* No to the criminalization of immigrants* No to border walls and militarization of the border* No to guest-worker programs* No to employer sanctions* Yes to expedited family reunification visas* Yes to the protection of labor and civil rights, and civil liberties* No to deportations* No to the use of local law enforcement for immigration purposes

MAPA leader Nativo Lopez, who had earlier toured the country building support for the convention, helped set this tone with remarks in the opening session: "I have a great desire for unity in the movement... It has been repeated before, on T-shirts and on placards, that no human being is illegal... We demand legalization for all, nothing less.

"There are parties, groups, and organizations that have shown themselves willing to accept something less. I am not recriminating them, but clarifying the situation. We didn't come here to attack anyone, but to clarify our position and regroup.

"The mobilization of the masses must base itself in the organization of workers in mass organizations in all the cites and towns. Beyond that, the political tendency is key. We mustn't permit that our movement support a single political party.

"We must unite with the unions, not attack them! We are to be based in the organization of immigrant workers... Do not paint all the labor movement with the same brush. [1] This is a civil struggle. We must combine forces and struggle for unity because we need all the broadest forces to win."

As Lopez alluded, a key component of this conference was the reaching out by its initiators to organized labor-which met some positive response. SEIU was present in some force.

Other unions that took part in the deliberations included the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Teamsters, UNITE HERE, Laborers International Union of North America, UE, [[American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees]] and the United Food and Commercial Workers. The Smithfield and Wal-Mart campaigns were highly visible.

A couple of days before the strategy convention the AFL-CIO announced a partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the nation's largest day laborer association. At the convention the Teamsters spoke about a projected campaign in support of mainly immigrant, "independent contractor" port drivers in California.

...The AFL-CIO, Teamsters, and UE have adopted more principled positions, more or less in line with the convention's Ten Points of Unity. But SEIU, the union with the most immigrant members and the biggest labor contingent at the gathering, is a different kettle of fish.

SEIU President Andy Stern was involved early on in a "partnership" approach to immigration "reform," called the Essential Workers Immigrant Coalition (EWIC), including the likes of the US Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, and Tyson Foods. These partners were responsible for drafting what would be introduced as the McCain-Kennedy bill in the Senate last year.

Stern, UNITE HERE, and the National Council of La Raza support S2611, the Senate "compromise" amnesty.

...The only major bourgeois politician to attend the convention was Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). When he was invited to speak from the stage many shouted, "make him sign before speaking," referring to the Ten Points of Unity.

Gutierrez then made a big production of going to an easel where the points were displayed, signing with a flourish. While this was probably a staged gesture, the suspicion of politicians was palpable.

Gutierrez's remarks did little to allay such doubts. He endorsed guest-worker programs and dismissed concerns about the wall along the Mexican border as "irrelevant." This darling of many union bureaucrats, and the Communist Party, had wasted no time in demonstrating his double-dealing cynicism. There will be pressure on the movement to hustle votes for such con men and women-which would be a disastrous, disruptive diversion from the unifying principles.

'There were a number of delegates with close ties to the Mexican PRD. Though pro-capitalist in both roots and program the PRD has styled itself as the "left" alternative to the traditional bourgeois PRI and PAN.

Many U.S. socialist groups-including Socialist Action-had a presence at the convention. Some of these groups seemed content to hawk their literature and make weighty pronouncements during discussion. But 'some socialist activists had credentials as builders of coalitions around the country, and others were representing union bodies. A number were included in the provisional steering committee.