Date: Sat, 4 Oct 97 10:55:35 CDT
From: bghauk%berlin.infomatch.com@WUVMD.Wustl.Edu (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Stop The Attacks On Immigrants' Rights
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC
Stop The Attacks On Immigrants' Rights; Miami picket builds October 12 march in New York
By Brad Caiman, in The Militant, Vol. 61, no. 35
13 October 1997
MIAMI - Loudly chanting "Justice, for immigrants!" more
than 200 protesters, most of them Haitian, picketed across
from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
building here September 25. Blowing whistles and chanting in
Creole and English, the demonstrators attracted the attention
of hundreds of passing motorists, many of whom honked in
support. The protest was organized by the Haitian rights
organization Veye-Yo and the Miami Committee for Dignity and
Justice for Immigrants, which includes the Union of
Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). It
publicized the national march in New York City for immigrants
rights on October 12.
Tens of thousands of immigrants in southern Florida are
affected by recent changes in U.S. immigration law. A legal
loophole had allowed immigrants without papers who "qualify"
for U.S. residency to remain in the country while awaiting
their permanent residency papers, or "green card," if they
pay a $1,000 penalty. These penalty fees amounted to $200
million last year, which the INS has used to build more
That loophole was set to expire October 1, meaning that up
to 1.5 million immigrants around the country would be
required by law to return to their homelands and wait for
their residency papers to be sent.
Marie Jose, who came to the protest, told the Militant
that this will result in immigrant families being split
apart. "I think it's inhuman to separate families like that,"
she said. "We don't know how long the separation will be."
On September 29 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to
extend the law allowing immigrants awaiting papers to remain
in the United States, but only for three weeks.
Many of the protesters expressed anger over the Catch-22
nature of the laws. For instance, under another law that went
into effect in late September, any undocumented immigrant who
leaves the United States after residing here for more than
180 days cannot return for between three and ten years.
These laws create a legal limbo for huge sections of the
workforce, where immigrants who may be entitled to a green
card must live and work without legal protection, subject to
deportation at any moment.
Daniel Jasmin, a Haitian student in Miami, said that
because of these restrictive laws "this protest is very
important for all immigrant rights."
Losawa Mestedel, a Haitian worker who has lived in the
U.S. for seven years, told the Militant, "This country has
not been good to immigrants, and that is why I am here,
because I want justice!"
The only candidates for public office who participated in
the picket were Janet Post and Rollande Girard, Socialist
Workers Party candidates for Miami mayor and City Commission.
A campaign statement by the socialist candidates, available
in French, Spanish, and English, called for full rights for
all immigrants, and raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
Leslie Belizaire, who is unemployed, said that fighting
for decent-paying jobs is part of the fight for immigrant
rights. "The U.S. government lies about how good it is here,"
he explained. "But we know better - we must fight for good
Speakers at the protest included Samedi from Veye-Yo, and
Angel Domi'nguez from UNITE, who invited people to attend the
New York march.
Girard, who addressed the demonstrators in Creole and
English, said, "We need to unite against those who exploit
us. The rulers always try to divide us. We are here because
we believe all human beings should be treated as equals."
During the protest several Black and Haitian-born Miami
cops escorted an INS "community-relations" officer who
attempted to give out business cards to demonstrators at the
rear of the picket line. Most protesters ignored her and kept
their attention directed at the INS office in front of them.
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