The Militant has moved to new offices in New York. Phone and fax numbers, and street and e-mail addresses have all changed. The new contact details are:
|Mailing address:||152 West 36th St., #401, New York, NY 10018|
The New York public meeting advertised for May 18 has been postponed.
Check this page for the new date.
Two-week issue of ‘Militant’
This is a two-week issue of the Militant. Between May 7 and May 13 the paper will not publish so that the editorial staff can move into new offices in midtown Manhattan. This is also the first issue of the paper to be produced on a new computer network, which will be made fully functional during the same period with help from supporters of the paper.
The next issue will be printed May 21.
Róger Calero wins victory
in fight to end deportation
U.S. gov't requests termination
of exclusion proceedings
BY MICHAEL ITALIE
On May 1 the campaign to stop the deportation of Róger Calero won a signal victory in the effort to secure his right to live and work in the United States. On that date the immigration police announced its intention to drop their effort to exclude him from this country. Calero and his supporters among unionists, immigrant rights fighters, defenders of civil liberties, and others have been waging this fight since Dec. 3, 2002, when he was detained by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) cops at Houston Intercontinental Airport.
"This is an important victory in the fight for workers' rights," said Calero in an interview with the Militant. "It is especially significant coming just two days after the April 29 Supreme Court decision permitting the federal government to hold legal immigrants like myself without bail during their deportation proceedings" (see U.S. Supreme Court mandates the detention of immigrants without bail).
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under which the INS has been reorganized, informed Calero May 1 that it was requesting the Immigration Court to "terminate the instant Removal Proceedings predicated on the Notice to Appear dated December 3, 2002, issued in Houston, Texas." Without further explanation, Assistant District Counsel Alan Wolf of Homeland Security based his motion to drop the case against Calero on two sections of the Immigration Regulations:
"The notice was improvidently issued, or,
"Circumstances of the case have changed after the notice to appear was issued to such an extent that continuation is no longer in the best interest of the government."
Calero’s attorney, Claudia Slovinsky, is now contacting the Justice Department in an effort to get a final ruling on the motion to terminate the deportation case. She will also take steps to secure the return of his permanent resident card and his passport for international travel, which are still in the possession of the immigration police.
‘The fight is not over’
"The fight is not over," Calero told the Militant. "We will continue to need help from supporters of immigrant rights, the labor movement, and defenders of freedom of the press. And we need to raise funds for our legal and publicity expenses."
On the evening of December 3, Calero, a staff writer for the Militant and associate editor of the Spanish-language monthly magazine Perspectiva Mundial, which are published in New York, was detained by immigration agents at the Houston airport on his return from a reporting trip in Cuba and Mexico, and locked up in an INS prison.
After learning of his arrest, Calero’s colleagues at the Militant and Perspectiva Mundial and others launched a public campaign to demand that the INS release the journalist and drop its exclusion proceedings against him.
Calero, 34, has lived in the United States for 18 years, since 1985, when his family moved here from Nicaragua. He has been a permanent resident since 1990. When he filed his application for residency in 1989, he specifically included the information about his plea-bargain conviction in high school on charges of selling an ounce of marijuana to an undercover cop--which immigration officials waived in order to grant him a green card giving him the right to live and work in the United States. In the year 2000, INS officials renewed Calero’s permanent residency card, again waiving the full written record of his conviction.
In a Militant interview in January of this year, Calero said, "I have found that my case strikes a chord with a lot of people. There are thousands and thousands of immigrant workers who are being picked up by the INS as they return from visits abroad." In 2001 the INS formally removed almost 177,000 people. More than 70,000 immigrants were summarily deported for "criminal violations."
While in the INS prison Calero wrote articles for the socialist publications telling the truth about the conditions and the stories of others behind prison walls. In "Inside an INS jail in Houston," first published in the December 23 Militant, Calero reported that the jailers were moving people in and out so quickly that everyone was known by their bunk number and the letter T or B, to indicate whether they have a top or bottom bunk. Calero was 804B.
Letters of protest poured in to the INS. They came from outraged journalists like Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, from union officials such as Bill Pearson of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and from petitions signed by hundreds of workers, including 50 meat packers at the Dakota Premium Foods meatpacking plant. Before his current job as an editor of Perspectiva Mundial, Calero was a member of UFCW Local 789 and worked at the Dakota Premium plant in South St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was part of a ground-breaking union-organizing drive.
The public protest campaign paid off. On December 13, ten days after he was locked up, Calero was released from detention in Houston and put on parole the first important victory in the fight. As John Studer, executive director of the Political Rights Defense Fund (PRDF), said at a December 15 meeting to celebrate Calero’s release, "The INS made a calculated counter-move." The government was trying to "defuse, confuse, and slow down the defense campaign" by removing "the rawest aspect" of the INS’s actions, "the fact that he was thrown in jail and faced a threat of immediate exclusion."
PRDF, which has a decades-long history of participation in civil liberties campaigns, took responsibility for initiating Calero’s fight immediately after his jailing.
Calero defense committee formed
The Róger Calero Defense Committee was formed in January, with Studer as the coordinator. The chairpeople of the committee are José Oliva, director of the Interfaith Workers’ Rights Center in Chicago; Martha Olvera, coordinator of the Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty in Houston; Bill Pearson, president of UFCW Local 789; and Pamela Vossenas, national grievance officer for the National Writers Union.
The antideportation campaign kicked off a national speaking tour for Calero. Having won his release from the INS jail, Calero hit the road from Christmas 2002 through April of this year to speak out about his case and to link up with others in struggle in the United States.
The kickoff of the tour coincided with other struggles against increasing government attacks on immigrant rights from "special registration" imposed on immigrants from 20 Mideast and Asian countries to stepped-up deportations of workers for convictions on petty criminal charges.
The fight received valuable media coverage. La Opinión, the principle Spanish-language daily in Los Angeles, published the story, "Latino journalist fights deportation," in its January 15 edition. New York Newsday wrote about Calero’s case February 9 in an article titled, "Rallying immigrants over rights: Facing deportation, reporter speaks out to educate public." Calero was interviewed on radio stations across the country. On March 13, Univisión, the largest Spanish-language television network in the United States, featured an interview with Calero and Perspectiva Mundial editor Martín Koppel at the publication’s offices in New York in the TV show Aquí y Ahora (Hear and Now).
After hearing about the case in the media, immigrant workers came to defense committee events in St. Paul, Chicago, New York, Tampa and other cities to hear about the case and to reach others with their own stories about the abuses of the immigration cops. After attending a program at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, a student from Turkey volunteered to translate defense committee literature into Turkish. Defense committee materials have also been translated into Spanish, French, Arabic, Greek, Swedish, Catalan, and Urdu.
Soon after Calero was released from the immigration jail in December, the INS set a March 25 hearing in Houston to rule on his case. Calero’s attorney filed a motion to move the location for the hearing from Houston to the New York area, where he lives and works. On March 4, INS officials filed a letter with an immigration judge stating they had "chosen not to oppose" the change in venue. A new hearing date was set for September 10 in Newark, New Jersey. After this second victory in his fight, Calero told the Militant, "This will encourage supporters of my defense campaign to step up their efforts" to demand that deportation proceedings be dropped altogether.
Many workers involved in strikes and other struggles in the Midwest, especially meat packers, took on Calero’s fight as their own. UFCW Local 789 hosted a fund-raiser January 11 and its members helped take responsibility for building and organizing the event.
Workers make fight their own
In Chicago unionists and other workers put their stamp on a program attended by some 90 people. Workers who are part of the struggle against the American Meatpacking Corp., which closed down in November 2001, helped on security and mounted a display on their fight to gain back wages owed by the company. Members of Latino Union, an organization of temporary workers and day laborers, participated in the program. Elvira Arrellano, an aircraft cleaner, spoke on the fight she has helped lead against a December 2002 INS raid at O’Hare Airport that placed 46 workers under arrest.
"Faced with a crisis in their economy, and worldwide depression conditions, employers are on the offensive against all working people," Calero told the Chicago gathering. "They want to make us bear the burden of their crisis so they can maintain their profits. This is why we see the brutal conditions in the workplace, the police brutality, and the massacre they are preparing against the people of Iraq."
Calero’s national tour was supplemented by speaking engagements by other defense committee leaders and supporters. Bill Pearson, for example, carried out a two-day tour of Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, in mid-March to win support for the case of his local’s former member.
Support for the case extended around the world. On March 6, at its 16th general assembly in Havana, Cuba, the World Federation of Democratic Youth passed a resolution endorsing Calero’s defense campaign. Representatives of 31 youth groups from 30 countries including Algeria, South Africa, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, China, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Palestine endorsed the campaign as well. High school students and others in Iceland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom became partisans of the fight during a speaking tour in these countries by Young Socialists leader Lawrence Mikesh, who is based in Miami, Florida.
Victory tour on the horizon
The May 1 motion by the Department of Homeland Security to end deportation proceedings "encourages me to go on with the struggle," said Calero. "I will continue to speak out against the outrageous jailings of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, Sami Al-Arian, Omar Jamal, the five Cuban revolutionaries imprisoned in U.S. jails on frame-up charges of ‘conspiring’ to spy, and others. The victory in my fight helps to expose the violations of immigrant and workers’ rights that go on every day."
Calero said he especially looks forward to refocusing his energies on what he was doing before the INS detained him on December 3--writing for Perspectiva Mundial and the Militant, telling the truth about the resistance of workers and farmers to the employers’ offensive against their rights, and the worldwide fight for socialism.
"When we nail down the final pieces of this fight, and my green card and passport are returned to me, I’ll be going on a victory tour," said Calero. "I want to share this accomplishment with those who have joined me in this struggle. I look forward to meeting again the hundreds of workers and others who helped beat back the government--from meat packers in the Midwest, like those on strike against Tyson Foods in Wisconsin now, to garment workers who carried out a successful strike against Point Blank near Miami and are pressing ahead their fight for a union and a contract. I want to find out from them where they are at with their struggles and what I can do to help. I intend to describe this victory for what it is: a weapon that others can use to press for their rights in the United States and around the world."
A victory for all workers