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First day of Legalization for All Network delegation focuses on Chicano struggles in Arizona

By staff |
April 1, 2019
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Cesar Chavez march.
Cesar Chavez march. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
L4A delegation members with Isabel Garcia of Coalición de Derechos Humanos.
L4A delegation members with Isabel Garcia of Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

Tucson, AZ - On March 30, the Legalization For All Network completed the first day of an immigrant rights delegation to Arizona and the U.S.-México border.

Members of immigrant rights organizations and a Palestinian liberation movement organization from the Midwest are participating in the delegation.

The first day of the trip was in Tucson, Arizona, where the delegation learned about the history of the U.S.-México border and the struggles of the Chicano people in the Southwest, which was the top half of México until the U.S. invasion of México in 1848.

In the morning, the delegation participated in the 19th annual Cesar Chavez rally in Tucson, led by the Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition. The annual rally honors and celebrates Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union’s legacy and brings attention to the current Chicano community struggles and immigrant rights and labor struggles. This includes the sharp struggles over the U.S./ México border in the context of President Trump’s declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ and his recent threats to entirely close the U.S.- México border.

The Legalization for All Network delegation members marched together as a contingent in the march that was led by a group from the Tohono O’odham Nation and included many Chicano and labor organizations. After marching about a mile, the delegation arrived at Rudy Garcia park for a rally. Speakers emphasized the importance of not only learning about the history of the Chicano movement, but continuing its legacy by carrying on the struggle today in the workplace, high school and college campuses, and on the streets. For 19 years, the Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition has been fighting to create a paid holiday in Pima County in honor of Cesar Chavez.

After the march, the delegation arrived at Global Justice Center, which houses several important organizations, such as the Alliance for Global Justice, No More Deaths, and Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

There, the delegation heard an engaging presentation from long-time activist Isabel Garcia of Coalición de Derechos Humanos (Coalition for Human Rights). They have been struggling against the injustices at the border and attacks on immigrant rights for decades. Garcia emphasized the roots of the oppression of immigrants in the capitalist system and corporations’ changing needs over time for cheap, exploitable labor. Garcia also talked about the need to fight against militarization of the border and to connect the immigrant rights struggle to the struggles for Black liberation and against police brutality, among many other things.

After meeting with Garcia, the delegation met with Saulo Escamilla, a leader in the struggle over Chicano Studies in Arizona, who works in culturally responsive pedagogy instruction. The Chicano Studies struggle has been very sharp in Arizona, with the state legislature banning all ethnic studies in 2010 – an attack on Chicano Studies in particular - leading to mass struggles for years until the law was recently overturned in the courts. Escamilla’s presentation was on the history of the Chicano movement, with a particular focus on lesser-known women leaders in the Chicano struggle, and also on Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, a key Chicano movement leader of the 1960s who organized the conference that led to the founding of the Chicano student group MEChA, which still exists today. Escamilla ended his presentation with an emphasis on the youth’s role in the struggle, reminding us that although change is slow, with continued struggle and youth empowerment, change is bound to come.

After the meetings, the delegation took a tour of some of Tucson’s Chicano street art, seeing an artistic representation on the streets of the struggles of the Chicano community. Street art the delegation saw included the mural “La Pilita” and the “Barrio Anita” mosaic. Members of the delegation also had a chance to drive through some of the historic barrios of Tucson, which are currently being subjected to gentrification.

The Cesar Chavez march and the presentations about the immigrant rights struggle in Arizona and the history of the Chicano movement provided a good framework for the rest of the delegation.

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