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Border delegation in San Diego: Immigration panel

By staff

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Los Angeles, CA – The Legalization for All Network (L4A) concluded day four of the 2023 border delegation with a virtual panel that included speakers from different immigrant rights organizations. The panel was moderated by Jenny Bekenstein, a member of Centro Community Service Organization (CSO). Sol Márquez, member of Centro CSO and Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) grounded the discussion in the broader purpose of the delegation – to deepen participants' knowledge of different immigrant rights struggles and to find unity across these struggles.

Brad Sigal, a member of L4A and the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), began by talking about MIRAC's recent victory in winning driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in Minnesota through the Drivers Licenses For All bill.

Sigal then introduced L4A, explaining that the organization was formed as a network of local, grassroots, multinational immigrant rights organizations. Birthed from the mass protests that exploded across the U.S. in 2006 against the anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner bill, L4A aims to unite immigrant rights groups across the U.S. around four main pillars: no Trump wall, no guest worker expansion, legalization for all, and no more militarization and repression at the border. Sigal also explained the role of U.S. imperialism in causing forced immigration.

Next, Karla Cativo and Balmore Membreño from Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and Resistencia Comunitaria spoke about their work opposing U.S. military aid to El Salvador. They explained how U.S. imperialism creates conditions that lead to forced immigration throughout Central America. The Salvadorean government has imported policies of political repression and mass incarceration that closely resemble those of the U.S. government, further oppressing working class peoples in El Salvador and contributing to forced migration.

Xochitl Sanchez, a member of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, described the legal services that CARECEN provides to immigrants in the Los Angeles area. She laid out the main demands of CARACEN: permanent residency for Temporary Protected Status holders, an end to border militarization and obstruction for asylum seekers, protection for undocumented day laborers, the end of police and sheriff entanglement with ICE, and an end to U.S. intervention in Central America. Sanchez also spoke about the lack of social services for vulnerable immigrants and refugees entering the U.S., and CARECEN's work in trying to fill that void.

Andrés Kwon, a lawyer with the ACLU of Southern California, spoke about his work at the intersection of immigration law and criminal law. He expounded on the exploitation of undocumented immigrants within the U.S. criminal legal system and the ACLU's work to establish a public defender system in immigration proceedings through the LA Justice Fund. He also discussed their efforts in passing the LA County sanctuary policy, which prohibited county sheriffs from transferring undocumented immigrants to ICE. In 2018-19, LA County sheriffs transferred over 1500 people to ICE; that number went down to zero in 2021-22 due to this new policy.

Viva Vargas from the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) spoke about IMA's work with working-class migrants, and how U.S. imperialism keeps people in poverty around the world, leading to forced migration. Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are then exploited in the workplace due to a lack of legal protection, such as unaccompanied minors who are forced to labor in inhumane conditions to provide for their families back home. Vargas also emphasized how deeply and immediately the U.S.-Mexico border crisis is felt in Southern California, and how our communities are intertwined culturally, economically and socially.

The panel inspired the 2023 border delegates with a renewed commitment to fight for immigrant rights. The panelists' diverse range of work on immigrant rights, including political activism, legal services, social services, and more, provided a wealth of knowledge for the delegates to deepen their own organizing. The panel provided a critical forum for activists to build connections with one another and find unity across different organizations and experiences. Through unity, we can fight for and win full rights for immigrants and put an end to U.S. imperialism.

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