Calero, an editor of Perspectiva Mundial, a Spanish-language socialist monthly magazine published in New York, and a Militant staff writer, was seized by immigration agents at the Houston Intercontinental Airport Dec. 3, 2002. He was freed from immigration jail 11 days later after hundreds of messages of protest poured into the Houston INS offices. Until May 22, he faced an exclusion order against him based on a 1988 plea-bargain marijuana conviction, in spite of the fact that he has been a permanent resident for 13 years.
Speaking in Spanish and English, meeting co-chair Henry Cooper, host of a local Spanish-language radio program and a state board member of the Green Party, opened the event, which was attended by about 35 people. We are here in celebration of two victories: the May 22 decision that Calero is not deportable and the June 9 conviction of three immigration cops in the murder of Serafín Olvera.
These are victories for all immigrants and all working people, Cooper declared to loud applause.
Calero shared the platform with Martha Olvera who led a two year campaign to convict the immigration cops that killed her brother-in-law Serafín Olvera. Olvera, a national board member of the Calero defense committee, said, We faced overwhelming odds in both of these cases. But our fight won out.
Calero thanked the participants for their part in the broad campaign of support around the country, particularly among working people who see their rights under attack. He described the strike by workers in Jefferson, Wisconsin, against Tyson Foods. The meat packers there who are majority native-born workers identified with this fight and saw it as part of their battle against the giant meat packing company, he explained.
Im here today with information about Ciarán Ferry, being held without bond in the Denver County Jail, explained Rebekah Collins, as Calero, standing at her side, translated her message into Spanish.
Ciarán was detained by INS agents on January 30 of this year when he attended a scheduled green card interview in Colorado, she continued. The official charge against Mr. Ferry involves overstaying his visa although at the time of his interview, he was granted work authorization and permitted to stay in this country.
She explained that Ferry was formerly a political prisoner, imprisoned by the British authorities in the H-blocks of Long Kesh, Northern Ireland. We are asking that he be released immediately so he may be with his family while he waits for an asylum hearing in August, said Collins to the applause of the audience.
Calero urged those present to support the campaign to release Ferry and announced that his international tour will include Canada, where Algerian immigrants are fighting deportation.
Houston City Councilwoman Ada Edwards, a committee endorser, sent a message to the meeting saying, Congratulations on your recent victory! It is a testament to what organized people can do when we are willing to work hard to make sure justice is done. I want to thank Róger Calero for standing up for the rights of people who otherwise would not be heard as loudly through his work at Perspectiva Mundial and the Militant. From the striking packinghouse workers in Wisconsin to the case of Serafín Olvera, his work has truly made a difference. I am gladdened by the news of the termination of his deportation order. I hope that at least in a small way my office was able to assist in these efforts.
In reading the message, Jacquie Henderson, a garment worker and organizer of the Houston Socialist Workers Party who also chaired the meeting, commented that, It is fitting that Calero began his tour today on Juneteenth, this day we celebrate when Union soldiers arrived in Texas June 19, 1865, to enforce the abolition of slavery.
Amelia Perez, who helped organize the Calero tour, announced An Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride from Houston to Washington, D.C., and New York. She urged everyone help build the coast-to-coast caravan September 20-October 4.
One immigrant worker who brought his family to the meeting after seeing the TV coverage, commented in the discussion period, We are proud of these victoriesbut they are not just victories for one group of immigrants but everyone.
Display tables at the meeting hall included ones from the Texas Green Party, Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange, La Resistencia, Irish Northern Aid, Socialist Workers Party, Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, the fight for justice for Serafín Olvera, and the Calero defense committee. The meeting raised over $500 towards tour expenses and to begin a war chest for the Political Rights Defense Fund to come to the aid of others.
As soon as his plane landed Calero went to a live radio interview. The day before the meeting he participated in a press conference with the support of several immigrant rights activists. Two Spanish-language TV stations, Univisión and Telemundo, covered the visit, and the Spanish language daily El Día announced the event.
Calero was invited to a meeting at the Mexican Consulate with representatives of Houston community organizations where his remarks summarizing his fight received enthusiastic applause.
I saw the report on your case on the Telemundo news broadcast last night, said a sewing machine operator greeting Calero as he met workers at the gate to a Houston garment factory early in the morning June 19. Congratulations! I will try to make it to the meeting tonight.
Most workers stopped to take a flyer for the evening meeting and to talk with Calero as he was introduced by one of their coworkers. A few came back to the gate after parking their cars to continue the discussions and shake Caleros hand in support.
I have been following the campaign in your magazine, said another sewer driving into work. Its good for all of us that you have won.
|Róger Calero Victory Tour|
|Below is the schedule for the first leg of the tour. Requests for additional tour dates can be made to the committee.|
Des Moines June 25
Omaha June 26
Los Angeles June 27-28
San Francisco June 29-30
Seattle July 1-2
New York July 4-5
Newark July 6-7
For more information or to send a contribution, contact the Róger Calero Defense Committee, c/o PRDF, Box 761, Church St. Station, New York, NY 10007; phone/fax (212) 563-0585, or visit its website at www.calerodefense.org