Immigrant rights activists gather in Chicago

Socialist Worker/Lee Sustar/[[August 25, 2006]]/ link

Reports on the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention where the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights was formed. There were around 400 delegates from around 25 states ("Minneapolis-St. Paul, Rochester, N.Y., and Providence, R.I., as well as the South"). The main organizer appears to be the Chicago March 10 Movement. Miller Beer provided funding and the Miller Beer Girls were there for the event. Those at the meeting oppose "guest-worker programs and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border".

...Many of the attendees had been key to the spring mobilizations that culminated in the Great American Boycott...

...A variety of immigrant workers' struggle were represented at the conference, from the fight being waged by Chicago activist Elvira Arellano against deportation over the use of false documents in order to stay with her 7-year-old son; to strikers from the Lechner & Sons industrial laundry near Chicago; to Arizona Latino organizers fighting against the state's harsh new anti-immigrant laws.

...On hand were representatives of key labor organizations, including the head of the United Food and Commercial Workers' (UFCW) campaign to unionize the Smithfield Food poultry plant in Tar Heel, N.C.; the head of UFCW's anti-Wal-Mart corporate campaign; the Laborers International Union of North America' director of immigration policy; and staffers and members from several Service Employees International Union (SEIU) locals.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Teamsters' campaign to organize truck drivers in the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, where immigrant drivers shut down the country's largest port on May 1. The UNITE HERE delegation was comprised of more than a dozen mostly Latino officials and organizers from the manufacturing side of the hotel and textile workers union. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee sent a top official as well. Chicago, (Service Employees International Union) Local 73 executive board member and school custodian Jose Artemio Arreola is a leading figure in the March 10 Movement that opposes S 2611.

...Juan Carlos Ruiz of the National Capitol Immigration Coalition attended the Chicago conference, and Yanira Merino, who heads immigration issues for the Laborers, greeted delegates on behalf of both the coalition and her union...

...Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, gave a speech to delegates in a panel discussion in which 'he called the vote a "weapon" in the struggle.

...Nevertheless, the delegates did get an education on 'the role of the Democrats in the movement, delivered in a speech by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

After publicly signing the conference's points of unity--including opposition to guest-worker programs and a call for legalization for all undocumented workers--Gutierrez used his concluding remarks to defend guest-worker programs as the only safe way to reunify immigrant families in the near term, and shrugged off the border wall as "irrelevant." He was met with stony faces and token applause...

Women complained about "sexist behavior" at past events; "steps were taken to implement affirmative action within the movement". Students and youth also complained.