Twin Cities organizers memorialize 53 migrants who died in south Texas, press Senator Smith for immigrant rights action
St. Paul, MN – On July 5, organizers from several local immigrant rights organizations held a press conference on Saint Paul’s West Side to remember the 53 migrants who tragically died in San Antonio, Texas, suffocated in a truck container. After the press conference, the community members went to Senator Tina Smith’s nearby office, where they read the names of the 53 Mexican and Central American migrants and pressed an aide to the senator on the urgency to take action now to end the policies of border militarization and exclusion that make deaths in the borderlands a common occurrence.
After the press conference, many from the group reassembled at Senator Tina Smith’s nearby office in the Drake Building. They went into the office together carrying flags from México and Central American countries where the 53 migrants who died in Texas were from.
An aide to Senator Smith who works on immigration issues came out to hear the group’s demands. First, they demanded that Senator Smith come to the community to meet with the organizations present about these life-and-death issues that impact immigrant communities. Activists thanked the aide for agreeing to try to make that happen, but also expressed the urgency of this moment to move quickly, while the Democrats control Congress and the presidency until November, when analysts agree it’s very likely they will lose control of Congress to the Republicans. Like in 2008 when the Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency and failed to act on immigrant rights before they lost control of Congress to the Republicans in 2010, activists warned that squandering this moment before November will likely mean at least another decade if not more of continued deaths at the border, mass deportations and family separations.
Demands of the organizers are that survivors of the tragedy in San Antonio as well as their families and extended families of the deceased be given legal immigration protections such as U or T visas in the United States; an immediate end to the Trump-era Title 42; an end to militarization of the border; comprehensive immigration reform to end the racist and discriminatory system; eliminating obstacles to medical care at the border and in prisons and detention centers, and an end to discriminatory policies that have denied migrants due process at the border.
Speakers at the press conference included Ben Ramirez from Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, Delfina Rojas of Mujeres Fuertes Rompiendo Cadenas, John Reuss of the Solidarity Committee on the Americas (SCOTA), Dr. Miguel Fiol of Frente de Acción Latinx Minnesota (FALM), Dr. Hussein, a medical professional, Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Monique Cullars-Doty of Black Lives Matter, Adriana Cerillo of For Progress, Diana Hernandez of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Veena Iyer of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM), and Pastor Julia Luna. Maria Isa, a Puerto Rican musician and activist who is also running for the Minnesota State House in the West Side area for District 65B, ended the program with a powerful song, Derechos, about the struggle of immigrants.