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Chicago: Thousands say: Stop the Deportations! Amnesty Now!

By Joe Iosbaker

Chicago, IL – Emma Lozano's voice was cracking as she spoke to the thousands of marchers for immigrant rights in Grant Park, July 19. “I'm here to ring the bell for an immediate moratorium on deportations and the raids and sanctions on employers.” The founder of Pueblo Sin Fronteras had just helped to lead over 20,000 on a three and a half mile march in 90-degree heat. The event was a continuation of the mobilizations for immigrant rights begun this spring by Chicago's March 10th Movement.

The bell she referred to was a replica of the one that rang to start the Mexican revolution nearly 200 years ago. It was carried on the back of a pick-up truck through the streets in the middle of the crowd. Connie and Victor Parra, members of Local 73 Service Employees International Union (SEIU), brought it to Union Park that morning. “My mother was the head of the Mexican Independence Day committee in Chicago 20 years ago. The government of Mexico gave her the bell in recognition of her efforts on behalf of our community,” explained Mrs. Parra.

The ringing of the bell was accompanied through the march by chants of, “Que queremos? Amnistia! Cuando? Ahora!” [“What do we want? Amnesty! When do we want it? Now!”]

Debate in Washington

Father Marcos, another organizer for the march, said he knew of children in his parish that were alone at home, with no food in the house, because their parents had both been deported.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez addressed the rally, condemning the raids on immigrants that are being carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, through its Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm. “President Bush can't have it both ways. He can't claim to favor legalization for the undocumented immigrants on the one hand, and then carry out raids, deporting workers and breaking up families.”

Gutierrez wants Bush to cease until the Congress completes its debate on the different legislation that has been adopted by the House and the Senate. The House bill, called the Sensenbrenner Bill or HR4437, was the vicious attack that started the protest movement this spring. It would make all undocumented workers criminals, as well as anyone who aids them. The Senate bill is less severe, but it falls far short of the demands of the mass movement that seeks amnesty for all undocumented workers.

Next Steps

Jose Artemio Arreola, a co-chair of the March 10th Movement, was present at the rally as well. The coalition of local organizations has recently announced plans for a national conference to be held in Chicago Aug. 11-13. This conference will be devoted to continuing the struggle. “We don't support any of the bills in Washington,” commented Arreola, “but we want the politicians to listen to us. We will tell them what the people need: No deportations, no guest worker program and legalization for all. After we have that, we need a visa procedure that grants immigrant workers full labor rights.”

Already there are plans underway for another massive mobilization in Chicago for the week around Labor Day, the U.S. holiday for workers. “From International Workers Day to U.S. Labor Day, immigrant workers continue to demand full equality,” concluded Arreola.

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