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Vol. 72/No. 6      February 11, 2008

Immigrant rights groups: ‘Stop deportations’
HOUSTON—Some 650 people gathered here the weekend of January 18-20 for the national conference of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR). They came from more than 170 organizations, representing not only Latin American immigrants, but Arab, South Asian, Chinese, and Filipino rights groups.

The conference reaffirmed the network’s opposition to immigration police raids and deportations and its support for the legalization of immigrants.

“The raids must stop. The arbitrary arrests and deportations as a whole must stop. We don’t want a single person to be jailed just because they are an immigrant,” said Arnoldo García, a leader of the NNIRR.

Participants took part in more than 70 workshops. Among the wide range of topics were the fight for the right to driver’s licenses for undocumented workers, the fight against deportations, the rights of day laborers, legal rights of immigrants in detention, trade unions and immigration legislation, opposition to a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and the U.S. elections.

One of the participants, Kat Rodriguez of the Human Rights Coalition, based in Tucson, Arizona, told of the mounting death toll along the border with Mexico. “Just this year 237 deaths have been documented in Arizona. This is what ‘border security’ means,” she said.

Since the stepped-up militarization of the border began under the William Clinton administration, more than 4,000 people have died crossing the border, Rodríguez said. She noted that a memorial march is organized every November 1, the Day of the Dead celebrated in Latin America, to focus attention on the U.S. government’s anti-immigrant policies.

Among the participating groups was Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), which campaigns in defense of South Asian immigrant rights in New York. Asians, Dominicans, Mexicans, and other immigrants “are affected differently, but we all face the threat of deportation in one way or another,” said DRUM leader Monami Maulik. Another New York resident at the conference was Rafael Samanez, director of the group Vamos Unidos, which defends street vendors from police harassment.

One participating group at the conference was a new organization, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, headed by Gerald Lenoir. He said the group is seeking to counter moves by opponents of immigrant rights to win support among African Americans.

Anthony Dutrow contributed to this article.
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