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Momentum builds for May 1 immigrant and workers’ rights march in Minneapolis

Civil disobedience at ICE on May 6 also to demand "Stop the raids and deportations"
by Brad Sigal |
April 18, 2009
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Minneapolis, MN - On May 1 - International Workers Day - a mass march and street festival is planned here to demand immigrant and workers’ rights. The march will begin at 4:00 pm on Lake Street and 13th Avenue, in the heart of Minneapolis's Latino community. The march is initiated by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAc), which has organized many of the immigrant rights protests in the Twin Cities since it formed in the wave of mass marches in spring 2006. (see below for posters promoting the march)

The theme of this year's Minneapolis march is “United on International Workers Day since 1886.” The demands of the march are “stop the raids and deportations,” “legalization for all,” “drivers licenses for all” and “pass the Employee Free Choice Act.”

According to MIRAc member Niger Arevalo, “We are doing outreach every day, at the Latino nightclubs, in our neighborhoods, at Latino businesses, in the Spanish language newspapers and radio, at community events, to build the biggest possible march on May 1 to demand our rights as immigrants and workers. Momentum is building.”

May 1 is celebrated as International Workers Day around the world. This year it also coincidentally marks 100 days since President Obama took office. Many immigrant rights activists have pushed for Obama to sign an executive order during his first 100 days to stop the wave of large-scale workplace immigration raids that grew exponentially under the Bush administration. These massive militarized raids terrorize whole communities while separating hundreds of families.

According to Francisco Segovia of MIRAc, “Stopping the raids and deportations is a central focus of our march this year. We call on President Obama to issue an executive order to halt the immigration raids until a just immigration reform is passed. It gave people hope when he signed an executive order to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo. There's no good reason he can't also sign an order to stop the raids that also blatantly violate human rights and decency.”

The demand for “drivers licenses for all” corresponds to a deeply felt frustration among immigrant workers in Minnesota. Public transit is not adequate here, so most people are forced to drive to work. But since immigrants can't get a drivers license, any routine traffic stop means an impounded car or worse, and also means people driving without insurance. Some states allow immigrants to get drivers licenses. The organization Mujeres in Liderazgo (Women in Leadership) is fighting to pass a law in Minnesota to allow anyone to get a drivers license regardless of immigration status. The May Day march is taking this up as one of the central demands for immigrant workers in Minnesota this year.

The march will also demand that Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier for workers to form unions. The current laws make it nearly impossible for workers to unionize. A blistering anti-union propaganda campaign funded by large corporations has caused some politicians to back off from supporting EFCA, even though the Democrats control Congress and the White House.

AFSCME Local 3800 is one of the unions supporting the May 1 protest. Local 3800 Vice President Mary Lou Middleton said, “We support the right of all workers to form unions and the struggle for full equality. Big protests on May 1 around the country will help push the politicians to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.”

The immigrant rights movement in the Twin Cities won't be resting after May 1. On May 6 MIRAc is supporting a civil disobedience action at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. The civil disobedience protest aims to "shut down ICE" using civil disobedience tactics. Like the May 1 march, the civil disobedience action on May 6 will demand that Obama sign an executive order to stop immigration raids and deportations.

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