The Fight Deepens on May Day 2014

Nationally and internationally, May Day 2014 linked the immigrant and labor movements with an expansive agenda for change.

In one such initiative that was organized in more than 50 cities worldwide, Global Climate Convergence events that began on Earth Day culminated in May 1 actions that tied together labor and immigrant rights with demands for economic fairness, environmental justice and a conversion to a clean energy economy via a Green New Deal.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Global Climate Convergence united different forces into a single voice.

“May Day in Philadelphia this year shows the power of a unified justice movement,” said Cheri Honkala, spokesperson for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. “This is how we can reach critical mass to change course.”

In other U.S. actions, pro-immigration reform and labor rallies attracted hundreds each in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, among other places.

In addition to immigrant and labor issues, Bay Area activists from the ANSWER Coalition and other groups zeroed in on war and occupation, environmental destruction, privatization, the police killing of 23-year-old San Francisco college student Alex Nieto last month, and the regional gentrification that is displacing many people- immigrant and non-immigrant alike.

In Washington, D.C., a dozen people, including Lutheran Pastor Carmelo Santos, were arrested after a pro-immigration reform march from Capitol Hill to the White House. The arrests came amid weeks of hunger strikes and civil disobedience actions in the nation’s capital against deportations and in favor of action on the long-stalled immigration reform.

In a May Day editorial, the national bilingual daily La Opinion contended that the immigrant community was now in “a state of hopelessness and desperation” because of deportations by a Democratic administration and legislative obstruction from Republican lawmakers.

“The feeling on this May 1 is one of frustration, being so close to reform-after the Senate approved it-and yet so far away from it because of the stubbornness that has rejected reform in the House of Representatives,” the paper editorialized.

“The road traveled has been long. However, we cannot give up, because the cause of comprehensive immigration reform is fair for workers and necessary for the economy.”

Showing indeed that the fight was far from over, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos (Center for Equality and Rights)  joined with other Albuquerque groups to call for the passage of immigration legislation, an end to deportations and worker-friendly measures like a hike in the minimum wage. Decorating the stage at Albuquerque’s South Valley Gateway Park, a large banner with the photos of New Mexicans proclaimed:  “Not 1 More Deportation of NM Working Families.”

New Mexico State Senator Linda Lopez, who represents the district where the rally took place, delivered a short speech in both Spanish and English to a mixed-age crowd brimming with workers, students, families, Aztec dancers, popsickle sellers, sign-waving activists, and musicians.

“What we are celebrating today is the day of the workers and without the workers nothing happens,” said Lopez, who is a gubernatorial candidate in the June Democratic Party primary. “We have to work together and demand what is due to workers-a living wage, not just a minimum wage.”

After addressing the crowd, State Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero spoke to FNS about outstanding issues. A first term legislator, Roybal Caballero blamed Republicans in the New Mexico House for blocking progress on issues like raising the state minimum wage. “And that’s unfortunate, because Republicans represent poor areas of the state,” she said.

Originally from the Las Cruces-El Paso area, Roybal Caballero said there were a lot of parallels between the Paso del Norte borderland and the far southwestern district of Albuquerque that she represents.

“We have colonias (underdeveloped subdivisions and settlements) here. They are just not the same type of colonias than down there. They are within neighborhoods.”

The Democratic lawmaker said her district, which is approximately 60 percent Latino, has the highest rate of home foreclosures in New Mexico.

Pre-May Day news of the pending Albuquerque demonstration drew some negative comments on the website of media outlet KOB, with several writers complaining of “anchor babies” or “moochers” supposedly taking advantage of social services and depriving U.S. citizens of jobs.

But a press statement prepared by El Centro painted a far different picture of the role of immigrants-documented and undocumented-in the New Mexican economy.

Based on data compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center, El Centro calculated that new immigrant entrepreneurs generated $389 million in business activity in 2010, a year when the state was immersed in the Great Recession; moreover, the removal of all undocumented workers from New Mexico would cost the state $1.8 billion in economic activity, according to El Centro.

“We provide vital labor in the New Mexico oil fields, dairy industry, proudly pick New Mexico’s green chile, roof New Mexico’s adobe homes and take care of New Mexico’s children, elderly, and disabled,” added El Centro organizer Gabriel Hernandez. “We are proud of our contributions and it is time that we are afforded the dignity and security of immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

The many young faces at the Albuquerque rally demonstrated once again how youth have given the immigrant movement new energy in trying times.

Ramon Dorado Mendoza, 24, was accorded a hero’s welcome by a cheering crowd. Dorado was deported four years ago after being stopped in Albuquerque by a police officer for a traffic infraction and then turned over to the immigration authorities.

Brought to New Mexico when he was only 6 years old, Dorado grew up in the Duke City and was a pre-architecture student at the local community college when he was sent back to Mexico. Suddenly finding himself in Chihuahua City, Dorado landed in the northern Mexican city when the so-called drug war was raging. The first weekend he spent in Chihuahua City, dozens of people were killed, Dorado told FNS. “I began to take more care of myself, and not go out late,” he said.

Conditions for migrants were tough, Dorado said, with the local police targeting the returnees for extortion. “It was difficult,” he recalled. “You are treated differently because you’re from another place, even though you were born there.”

In March Dorado was part of a group of 150 Dreamers and other deportees that, in an act of mass civil disobedience, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana-San Diego with the goal of seeking humanitarian visas and political asylum.

Members of the group, he said, were coming from virtual war zones in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacan, where drug cartels, security forces and other armed groups are locked in multi-sided disputes.

Along with about 30 others from the group, Dorado was jailed pending review of his immigration case.

Rallying to the young man’s side, El Centro, the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice and other supporters lobbied the New Mexico Congressional delegation and raised $4,000 in bond money.

Currently, Dorado’s case is awaiting disposition in an El Paso immigration court.

Last Saturday, April 26, Dorado returned to New Mexico after a long interruption of his life plans. “I feel happy to be in Albuquerque, supporting the community,” he said.

Looking ahead, Dorado said he hopes to study architecture at the University of New Mexico. He also appealed for the freedom of the rest of the detained deportees from his group.

“The community has to work together to gain what we want-an immigration reform and a just law for all,” Dorado concluded.

Besides El Centro, other organizations endorsing or participating in the Albuquerque rally included the New Mexico Central Labor Council, Working America, the Southwest Organizing Project, Enlace Comunitario, the ANSWER Coalition, New Mexico Center for Peace and Justice, the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, OLE, and others.

Additional sources: Laopinion.com, May 1, 2014.  Articles by Maria Pena, Jorge Morales and editorial staff. Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2014. Seattle Times, May 1, 2014. Article by John de Leon. El Semanario de Nuevo Mexico/EFE, May 1, 2014.  Sfgate.com, May 1, 2014. Article by Kale Williams. KOB.com, April 30, 2014.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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