Date: Thu, 19 Dec 96 14:38:49 CST
From: rich%pencil@YaleVM.CIS.Yale.Edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: LA Meeting Focuses on Immigrant Rights

/** headlines: 114.0 **/
** Topic: Meeting Focuses on Immigrant Rights **
** Written 9:48 PM Dec 15, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 12:09 AM Dec 12, 1996 by in justice.usa */
/* ---------- "Meeting Focuses on Immigrant Rights" ---------- */

From: NY Transfer News Collective <>

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Dec. 19, 1996 issue of Workers World newspaper

Conference focuses on how to defend immigrants' rights

By Gloria La Riva, in Workers World,
19 December, 1996

Los Angeles "When the law takes effect April 1, 1997, 90 percent of legal immigration will be cut from Mexico. The law doesn't say it's targeted against Mexico, but in reality it will impact on Mexico and no other country."

This is how immigrant-rights lawyer Peter Schey outlined the critical situation facing millions of Mexican and other immigrants since President Bill Clinton signed the anti-immigrant law in September.

Schey gave the keynote speech at the Western Regional Conference of La Coordinadora '96 and the organization Pro- Uno, which took place the weekend of Dec. 7-8 here in Los Angeles. The groups met to form a program and action plan in the aftermath of the historic Oct. 12 Latino and Immigrants' Rights march on Washington.

Schey explained that the law was written to close off Mexican legal immigration.

"Historically," he said, "Mexicans often wait in the U.S. for their visas to be approved. Now, if you wait here for one year, you will be deported and ineligible to immigrate for 10 years.

"No other immigrants from other countries are in a position to wait in the U.S. pending approval.

"For the first time in 60 years there is a law seeking to close legal immigration from Mexico. What we will see is an exploding population of exploitable labor, ineligible for health care or education--a population that will be driven deeper and deeper underground. And the politicians know that very well."

The conference featured workshops focusing on La Coordinadora's seven demands: human and constitutional rights for all; equal opportunity and affirmative action; free public education for all; expansion of health services; citizen police-review boards; labor law reform and a $7 minimum wage; citizenship now and amnesty.

Participants, who were mainly Latino, agreed that there is lack of awareness about the new law's impact on Latino immigrants. The goal was to begin that process of community education--and most of all, to mobilize the people in their own defense.


In the citizenship and amnesty workshop, Salvadoran leader Angela Sambrano talked about the "ABC" immigrants, the most urgent class of immigrants. They are over 300,000 Latinos who qualified for legal residency under the 1986 immigration law's federal amnesty program.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service illegally turned down their applications in 1987. Their cases have since been pending in three federal class-action lawsuits.

When Clinton signed the new law, Congress immediately instructed the courts to drop the lawsuits as invalid.

Within weeks, Sambrano explained, the ABC--or "late amnesty"--immigrants are likely to be declared undocumented. They face immediate deportation.

Not only the 300,000, but their families--close to a million people--stand to lose.

"We must do everything possible to defend the late-amnesty immigrants," she said.

Carlota Botey, a member of Mexico's National Assembly and a progressive activist, talked about the economic realities that force Mexicans to leave their home. She said the money Mexicans send home to their families is now Mexico's second- biggest source of hard currency after oil.

"In Mexico, 58 million people live in poverty, out of 90 million. And it's worsening because of NAFTA.

"We can't enter the 21st century with the same miserable conditions that we came into the 20th with. It is necessary for us to join and resist."

Each workshop concluded with action proposals, presented by youth organizers in Pro-Uno.

In the "Justice without Brutality" workshop, Carlos de la Cruz of Citizens for Victims of Police Violence gave chilling testimony about his 21-year-old nephew, killed by Montebello police who shot him seven times.

Proposals included a memorial to the victims of police terror, community forums, elected civilian-review boards and people's tribunals.

Key to the action plan was a call for a mass mobilization in Washington in October 2000, and other events as developments in the immigration struggle unfold.

Coordinadora Director Pepe Medina said: "In the Oct. 12 march we saw banners of the whole world, the struggle of the poor, particularly of Latin America. It was independent of political institutions and think tanks, neither Democrat nor Republican. It was the people who are excluded from their platforms. ...

"We had our own platform with seven broad demands. We all agree that these are rights that every human being should have."

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