Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Detroit Immigrant Rights March Draws Tens of Thousands


hr4437_480
Originally uploaded by toybreaker.
Tens of thousands March for Immigrant Rights in Detroit

DETROIT, March 27, 2006 (PANW)--Following the growing pattern around the United States, tens of thousands of people marched from the southwest side of Detroit to the federal building downtown calling for the defeat of an anti-immigrant bill which would make felons out of 11 million people inside the country.

Perhaps the largest protest involving the Latino community in the history of Detroit, people of all ages took to the streets to oppose the two anti-immigrant bills--one already passed by the House--now being considered within the US Senate.

In Los Angeles it was estimated that one million people demonstrated against the bill on Saturday. On Monday tens of thousands of youth walked out of school to illustrate their strong resistance to the anti-immigrant legislation. Last week in Chicago 300,000 took to the streets for the same cause.

According to activist and photojournalist Cheryl LaBash in Detroit, who discussed today's demonstration in the city:
"For three an a half miles immigrant rights marchers thronged the street from curb to curb. From elders to babies in strollers the community turned out. Some independent truckers shut down their rigs to walk the march with their families. Thousands of youth received their education in the street today instead of classrooms. Chanting and waving national flags and homemade signs, the sleeping giant of the Latino immigrant community referred to in several signs was clearly awakened by the barbaric provisions of HR4437. One woman summarized HR4437 as 'legalizing racism.'"

"Councilwoman JoAnn Watson introduced a resolution to the Detroit City Council today that 'supports and salutes the marches for immigrants' rights, especially the march here in Detroit'. The resolution further opposed federal legislation harmful to the human rights of immigrants and supporting 'a humane, not racist immigration system.' Although marchers were overwhelmingly Latinos, significant numbers of Anglo and African American Detroiters joined in.

A demonstration was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan today as well.
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PANW Editor's Note: The following article from the corporate media came closest to estimating the crowd that demonstrated on March 27 from the southwest side to downtown. The Detroit Free Press claimed that there were 50,000 people in the march. However, the crowd appeared to be at least twice that size. It stretched wide and deep along Michigan avenue going all the way back to Vernor, the heart of the Latino community in Detroit.
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LATINOS VOICE OPPOSITION: Thousands protest immigration proposal

They oppose a hard-line plan on illegal workers

BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
March 28, 2006

Myra Daniela Rodriguez, 4, of Westland stands on the shoulders of her father, Rodrigo Rodriguez, at the rally Monday on West Lafayette.

Waving flags, toting babies and chanting "Si, se puede," which means, "Yes, we can," a mostly Latino throng marched Monday in one of the largest political rallies Detroit has seen in recent years, protesting proposed legislation in Congress to mark illegal immigrant workers and anyone who supports them as criminals.

"It's not right," said one of the marchers, 27-year-old Manuel Negrete of Lincoln Park, who works in landscaping. "The Latinos in this country, we came to work. We came to this country for opportunity."

Beginning in front of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the heart of Mexicantown in southwest Detroit, the march forced many businesses to close as employees took to the streets. Detroit Police put the number of protesters at more than 50,000.

While some said that was an exaggeration, there was no doubt that thousands of marchers made the trek to the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit -- where protesters chanted "Justica," or "Justice" -- before moving on to a rally outside WDIV-TV (Channel 4), where speakers railed against the proposal.

Similar rallies were held Monday in Grand Rapids and Washington, D.C., following others across the country during the weekend. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee stripped the legislation of criminal penalties for residents found in the United States illegally and opened the door for millions of undocumented workers to seek citizenship.

In downtown Detroit, protesters included undocumented and legal immigrants, as well as U.S.-born citizens. Many hailed from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and waved the flags of their homelands or the United States.

The number of marchers made for a vivid testament to the growth of the Latino community in Michigan and across the nation. According to U.S. census estimates, Michigan's Hispanic community grew by nearly 11% to 359,111 people from 2000 to 2004.

The Pew Hispanic Center in Washington D.C. said Michigan is home to between 100,000 and 150,000 illegal immigrants. In metro Detroit, as they do nationwide, they find work in a range of jobs -- making their livings as busboys, cooks, farmworkers,
landscapers and on construction sites, for example. Advocates say undocumented immigrants can find work because they're willing to work hard for low wages.

Negrete, a man born in Mexico who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, and other immigrants at the rally said they work hard, pay taxes and contribute much to America.

"People came here to make a living," said Alfredo Velazquez, 31, a truck driver from Detroit, born and raised in the city. "They're not taking away from anything."

What concerned Velazquez was that, under the legislation, he could be charged with a felony for helping a friend, family member or anyone else who might be here illegally. In many U.S. cities, including Detroit, where undocumented immigrants are part of the community, such a law would be unfair, he said.

"This seems pretty harsh," Velazquez said, as the crowed marched down Michigan Avenue past Tiger Stadium.

Religious groups played a major part in the rally: Under the bill as it was passed by the House, churches and social service groups would be criminalized for helping needy immigrants who are here illegally.

One local Catholic priest, the Rev. Thomas Sepulveda, pastor of Detroit's St. Anne Church, was in Washington, D.C., on Monday, lobbying U.S. senators to reject the proposed bills."We're doing jobs that other Americans don't want to do," said Oscar Carlito, 22, a student at Wayne Student University, as he marched with his fraternity brothers.

Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or nwarikoo@freepress.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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