[Documents menu] Documents menu
Sender: owner-imap%webmap.missouri.edu@WUVMD.Wustl.Edu
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
Article: 19266

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 detention centers.

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 jobs!"

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.

To get an introductory 12-week subscription to the Militant in the U.S., send $10 US to: The Militant, 410 West Street, New York, NY 10014. For subscription rates to other countries, send e-mail to themilitant@igc.apc.org or write to the above address.

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]