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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 17      May 4, 2009


Legalize all immigrants now! All out for May Day!
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(lead article)
All out for May Day!
Legalization now!
Militant/John Hawkins
Laundry worker and trade unionist Maria Hernandez speaks at April 21 press conference in Chicago, urging people to join May Day actions in defense of immigrant rights.

No deportations!
End the ICE raids!

The statement below was released April 22 by Dan Fein, Maura DeLuca, and Tom Baumann, Socialist Workers Party candidates for mayor, public advocate, and Manhattan borough president in New York, respectively; and Eleanor García, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the 32nd District in California.

Socialist Workers Party candidates will join thousands of workers at May Day demonstrations across the United States to demand an immediate and permanent end to all deportations of immigrant workers and legalization now, without restrictions. We encourage working people and youth to take the day off work or school to do the same.

In 2006 some 2 million immigrants and their supporters took to the streets and won an important victory in beating back reactionary legislation that would have made it a felony to live and work in the United States without “proper papers.” As hundreds of thousands are being thrown onto the unemployment rolls each month in the wake of capitalist contraction in production, the example of May Day is needed even more.

As the economic crisis of capitalism deepens undocumented immigrants are scapegoated with the claim that they are stealing “our jobs.” But there is no such thing as an “American” job. The bosses go wherever they want to maximize profit; working people should defend our right to go wherever we want to get the highest price for our labor power.

The bosses want us to think that they and U.S.-born workers have common interests and that “we” are all Americans. But class-conscious workers understand that we have nothing in common with the bosses, it’s us versus them.

We are part of an international class of workers and see fellow workers and farmers—wherever they were born, whatever language they speak, whatever their skin color or religious views, or whatever piece of paper or ID they happen to carry—as our brothers and sisters. We welcome them with open arms and say, “Let’s fight together against our common enemies—the bosses—and for the interests of the working class,” such as jobs for all, higher wages, stronger unions, and free government-guaranteed medical care.

The capitalist class and its government, from statehouses to Congress and the White House, are between a rock and a hard place. They can’t live without immigrant labor to be able to compete against their imperialist rivals in France, Germany, Britain, Canada, and Japan, much less against China. But they fear the potential power and example of immigrant workers who sought the American dream and found they have no choice but to fight against the American nightmare.

The so-called road to legalization is a road filled with so many roadblocks, twists and turns, and potholes—”get back to the end of the line,” pay outrageous fines, learn English, etc. and after all that, there is no guarantee of ever being given papers—that it is worse than a dead end or a road to nowhere, it’s a trap.

The union officials’ “roadmap” to immigration reform, unveiled by Change to Win and the AFL-CIO, is just as bad. It accepts the bosses’ argument that immigration must be controlled and the border sealed off. There is only one kind of immigration “reform” worth fighting for: full unconditional legalization for all immigrants.

There will be more battles to come as the capitalist ruling class tries to lower the value of our labor power and shore up their profits. Their goal is to drive down the living standard of all working people—native- and foreign-born.

The millions who turned out May Day 2006 revived May Day as a day of struggle in the United States. It is along this road that we can build a workers movement today that will be capable of taking power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers.

Join the May Day marches and rallies to demand: Release all those in jail for the so-called crime of working without papers! Stop the deportations! Legalize immigrants now! End the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border!

Chicago conference
calls May 1 action

CHICAGO—Nearly 40 workers representing six of the largest unions in this city gathered in front of the Chicago Board of Trade April 21 to announce plans to come out in force on May Day.

The union representatives were joined by Lawrence Benito, deputy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. He announced a protest action at the Broadview Detention Center in suburban Des Plaines April 30.

Speaking at the press conference, Ewa Miklewicz, a janitor and member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, recounted her decision to leave Poland in 1976, where she was a teacher, and move to the United States.

In 1986 Miklewicz received papers along with millions of others as part of an amnesty. “It hurts me to see the troubles that many immigrants are going through again,” she said, pointing to the need for a large turnout May 1 to demand legal rights for all immigrants.

Alfonso Bravo, a grocery store worker and member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, and Catherine de Santiago, a factory worker and member of Teamsters Local 743, also spoke representing their unions. Bravo, who addressed the gathering in Spanish, urged “the entire community to march with us May 1.”

Laura Garza, vice president of SEIU Local 1, chaired the news conference and made opening remarks.

The flyer and news release calling the conference and Garza’s remarks focused on some of the themes labor officials here have sounded at recent actions that deemphasize the demand for legalization. These include a general reference to immigration reform, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and a so-called economic recovery for all.

“On May 1, 2009,” the flyer read, “thousands of people will march for an economic recovery that works for everyone—including freedom for workers to form unions and a level playing field for all workers, regardless of immigration status.”

Melvin Maclin, vice president of United Electrical Workers Local 1110 and a former Republic Windows and Doors worker, sounded a somewhat different emphasis—one that was echoed by other speakers.

Pointing to the Bank of America offices across the street, Maclin said, “We fought Bank of America and Republic Windows and Doors and we won. None of that would have been possible without a union, without workers who are native-born and workers who are immigrants being able to stand and fight together. That’s why it’s important for us to turn out on May Day, because immigrant rights and labor rights go hand in hand.”

Last December unionists at Republic Windows and Doors sat in, occupying the plant, when the company attempted to dismiss workers without paying them severance and medical benefits. They won after six days.

Maria Hernandez, a laundry worker and member of Local 969 of the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, described the preparations her union is making for the march.

The newly formed Workers United union is organizing weekly meetings of industrial laundry and garment workers in Chicago to build the May Day march. The meetings were moved from Monday to Saturday so that more workers could attend. Some members of the union are also attending march coalition planning meetings.

“We have an opportunity to send President Obama a clear message May 1,” she said in English and Spanish, “that what we want is legalization now.”

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