We want to work here. We dont want to leave, said María Esther Jiménez, a young worker who spoke from the floor of the meeting. We buy everything we have here, we dont take anything. The United States profits from us.
We must work together, Anthony Johnson of the Birmingham Metro NAACP told the crowd, drawing the connection between the fight for immigrant rights and the fight of Blacks against racism. We must fight together, until HB 56 is repealed.
On October 12 a one-day strike by Latino workers centered in the northeastern part of the state protested the law. Soon afterward a federal court granted an injunction against parts of the law, including a section that requires schools to determine the immigration status of students and parents.
The Justice Department has asked the courts to overturn the legislation because it invades the federal governments exclusive authority over immigration.
The Barack Obama administration has implemented some of the harshest anti-immigrant measures in decades. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out more than 2,200 immigration audits in 2010, compared to 1,400 in 2009 and less than 500 in 2005. These expanded audits have forced the firings of thousands of immigrant workers.
ICE recently announced that last year it carried out the highest number ever of removals, a type of deportation that increases the risk of felony charges, prison sentences and fines for those who are deported if they return. And the administration continues its drive to encourage local cops to help enforce immigration law and implement mandatory fingerprinting to check the immigration status of anyone booked in local jails.
Several speakers at the rally pointed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s to end Jim Crow segregation as an example of a successful struggle with relevance today. A moment of silence was held for Fred Shuttlesworth, the Black rights leader who passed away earlier this month. A bilingual leaflet honoring Shuttlesworth was distributed at the meeting. Shuttlesworth fearlessly stood up to racist politicians and inspired millions to come out of the shadows and demand their dignity and rights, the flyer read.
Speakers and participants at the rally included Luis Gutierrez, Democratic Party congressman from Illinois; Birmingham City Councilor Jonathan Austin; and Birmingham School Superintendent Craig Witherspoon.
The rally was organized and promoted by La Jefa radio station.
Seth Galinsky contributed to this article.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home