Friday, August 18, 2006

National Immigration Conference

700 Immigrant Rights Activists form National Alliance;
set protests for Labor Day weekend and September 30

By Joaquin Bustelo

cross-posted from

CHICAGO - Hundreds of immigrant activists and
supporters met in Chicago August 11-13 in a national
strategy convention of the legalization-for-all wing of
the movement.

The event was the largest of at least three national
gatherings of immigration activists held over the
summer, and the one that was directly based on the
"Calendar Coalitions," as the Latino-led grass-roots-
based left wing of the immigrant rights movement is
popularly known because many local groups take their
name from the date they were formed or held a
significant action.

The main decision of the convention was to found a
National Alliance for Immigrant Rights around the
central demands of a halt to all deportations and full
legalization for all immigrants. A national
coordinating council was created with the participation
of activists from all over the country.

"The most important thing is that we gave the movement
a national structure that will allow us to coordinate
our actions," Jorge Mujica, one of the key organizers
of the convention told reporters shortly after the
meeting concluded.

"We have transformed ourselves into a national

The Alliance also projected a series of nationally-
coordinated local actions, the first during the Labor
Day holiday weekend, the second on September 30, right
before the beginning of the government's new fiscal
year and Congress's adjournment for the elections.

These protests will be demanding not just legalization
for all, but an immediate moratorium on all
deportations and round-ups pending Congressional
enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform.

Right now Congress is deadlocked on the issue. The
House has passed a punitive, so-called "enforcement"-
only act which militarizes the border and brands all
undocumented immigrants as "aggravated felons."

Attempts by the Senate to reach a "compromise" with the
House have only led to a Senate Bill that incorporates
many of the repressive features of the House version
and has a convoluted, multi-tiered structure for a
temporary semi-legalization that would not cover many
millions of undocumented workers already in the country
and puts off citizenship for those that do qualify
almost two decades.

This attempted "compromise" has been rejected by the
Republican House leadership.

The conference voted to oppose both these bills.
"Better no law than a bad law," said Nativo Lopez,
president of the Mexican American Political Association
and a leader of the movement in Los Angeles.

Instead, the convention agreed to counterpose to bills
like those, an immediate a moratorium on raids and
deportations pending further Congressional action.

The generalization of the moratorium demand to the
national movement as a whole represents an important
advance in taking into account the desperation of
millions of undocumented who want full legalization for
all, but consider even a partial and punitive
legalization better than no legalization at all.

Attendance at the convention far exceeded the
expectations of the organizers. They had expected 300
participants at the event. In reality more than 400
formally registered, and many more participated without
registering. Organizers estimated that, in all, around
700 people took part.

The big majority of those attending were Latinos, with
Mexicans the biggest Latino nationality, as they are in
the population as a whole. Reflecting the immigrant
composition of the majority, the convention was mostly
conducted in Spanish with simultaneous translation into

For many participants, an important part of the
conference was the convening of a women's caucus that
demanded full, equal participation by women in all
aspects of the movement.

The impetus for the formation of the caucus came from
Latina activists in their 20's who objected to the
virtually all-male slate of presenters and chairs
organized for the first plenary session of the

The convention as a whole unanimously approved motions
from the caucus requiring equal female representation
in all leading bodies and among spokespeople and
national coordinators.

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