Altogether, some 400,000 working people mobilized on May 1, International Workers Day, in over 100 cities across the country to demand legalizing undocumented immigrants and an end to raids and deportations by federal agents.
Around 600 college and high school students, as well as workers and their families, gathered at San Diego City College and then held a lively march, joining those at Chicano Park. Later that night, a larger action for legalization took place in the park.
A construction worker, 32, who asked not to be named, told the Militant that he and 150 other workers at a construction company had been arrested and deported after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police raided their homes last June. "At around 4:00 a.m., la migra came to my house and asked if I worked for such and such company. I said yes, he said. They asked if I was here legally and demanded to see my papers. They told me they had a warrant for my arrest and that I should open the door.
"I was taken to a jail for two weeks, and threatened with $10,000 in bail, but I got that reduced. The judge convicted me and I was deported to Mexico, where I don't even have family. I have been here for 17 years.
I am for immediate legalization because the majority of us are here to work and to better ourselves, the worker said. We are not criminals like they say."
The rally in Belle Glade was organized by college student Sonia Barajas, 19, who a year ago organized a similar rally of 5,000. This year, city officials insisted she needed $1 million in insurance, but, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, organizers pushed back that requirement on the basis of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of assembly.
Norma Rosas traveled from Plant City, where she works picking strawberries and oranges, to a rally of 400 in nearby Tampa. Something has to change, she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Some think were here to steal their jobs. We are not criminals, were here to work.
Here the mood was determined but festive, with bands, chants, and singing.
No somos uno, no somos cien, somos millones, cuéntennos bien, was one popular chant, which translates as: Were not one, were not 100, we are millions, count us well.
Many students at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy and other schools in Oakland skipped class or walked out to join the march. Protesters demanded legalization of all immigrants, an end to deportations, and the right to drivers licenses for all.
Shops and restaurants closed in the Latino neighborhoods where people gathered to march.
In Oakland, groups of young African American bystanders along the march route on International Boulevard told the Oakland Tribune they supported the demonstrators.
Rightists staged small counterprotests in Santa Rosa, Fremont, Hayward, Pleasanton, and Palo Alto, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The determination of protesters in face of the new measure was expressed by Eric Cully, a 30-year old construction worker, who said, "These demonstrations show that were here and were staying."
Elsewhere in New Jersey, 60 workers marched from Jersey City to Union City, and 50 rallied in Warinanco Park in the town of Elizabeth. Earlier that day in Elizabeth, 10 truck drivers attended the opening of the Gilberto Soto Memorial Center, a center for drivers who work at the Port of Newark.
The proletarian composition and character of the actions was graphically registered at the Jersey City protest. As people gathered in a park there to prepare for the march to Union City, organizers handed out large signs that read: "Stop Bush, Vote Nov. 7," something many of the protesters can't do because they are not citizens. A number of those present turned over the signs, sometimes cutting them in half to make more placards, and wrote their own slogans, including, "No al police ICE," "No deportations," and "No more separation of families."
Angel Lariscy contributed to this article.
Lee Siu Hin, national coordinator of the Immigrant Solidarity Network, told the crowd, We cannot support this legislation, referring to the various immigration reform proposals currently before Congress. We cannot be silenced, he said to cheers. We are not disposable laborwe have dignity and we have rights!
Ricardo Juárez of Mexicanos Sin Fronteras asked the crowd, What did we march for last yearso that we could pay $3,500 every three years for a visa? So that we would return to our country to pay $10,000 to return again?
No! the crowd answered, opposing the White House-backed immigration bill. The other current bill, which also contains onerous restrictions, is known as the Flake-Gutiérrez bill.
Well, if we reject the two proposals from Congress, what do you propose? asked Juárez.
Amnesty! and Legalization for all! were the most popular responses.
In downtown Washington, 400 Asian Americans and their supporters turned out for an action sponsored by the Asian American Justice Center, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and Organization of Chinese Americans.
Won Park from the Korean American Community and Service Association, based in Chicago, came with a group of 40. Park told the Militant he wanted legislation normalizing the situation of U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, who are sometimes unable to receive financial aid for college.
The National Capitol Immigration Coalition has called an immigrant rights march on the Capitol here for June 2.
Many were students who at noon walked out of class and gathered at Powderhorn Park. Diana Barreto, a student at Edison High School, was part of a contingent of 35 students who walked out of her school.
Bella Maruro, a student at Ramsey Middle School, said, We want an education but since we dont have a Social Security number we cant go to college.
Speakers at the rally spoke out against the recent raid in Willmar, Minnesota, where immigration police forced their way into homes and arrested 49 people (see April 30 issue).
With these raids, theyre pushing us to do this. We wont accept it, said Miguel Navarro, a roofer. He was referring to the step-up in immigration raids in Michigan, where ICE agents have carried out three high-profile operations since the beginning of the year.
Matilda Hernández-Miyares and Ryan Scott contributed to this article.
May Day Actions for Immigrant Rights by State and City