Chanting “Sin papeles, sin miedo/Without papers, without fear,” 800 people rallied behind calls to “End detention” and “Ni una más deportación/Not one more deportation” in New Orleans on July 10. The militant immigration rights protest was sparked by continuing exploitation and deportation of undocumented workers in the U.S. It was called by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.
People came from organizations nationwide, especially from the South, including busloads from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Also participating were worker contingents from other states, including California, Illinois and Washington state.
One rally theme was “Stop tearing families apart.” The crowd, reflecting that, was markedly multigenerational, with very young children, many family groupings and older workers.
A multinational contingent organized by NOWCRJ blocked traffic in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Regional Center. Fourteen people were arrested, some with chained hands and wearing blue T-shirts with the slogan “We are reconstruction workers.”
Fernando Lopez, an organizer with NOWCRJ’s Congreso de Jornaleros/Congress of Day Laborers, said: “ICE has used New Orleans as a testing ground for some of its most brutal and unconstitutional immigration enforcement tactics, and continues to target reconstruction workers who helped rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina.” He added: “People in our community aren’t waking up thinking about court decisions — they’re waking up wondering if they’ll make it through the day without an abusive ICE raid.” (nowcrj.org)
The protest continued in front of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where hearings were underway on an anti-immigrant lawsuit that had been filed to block deportation relief measures ordered by the Obama administration. The lawsuit, upheld by a Texas judge, is now under review by the most conservative federal appeals court in the U.S.
The federal measures are known as DACA and DAPA, standing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. DACA would limit the deportation of some undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. DAPA would prevent the deportation of some undocumented parents of children born in the U.S. or who have the status of “lawful residents.” Both measures, while very limited, have not been implemented due to the anti-immigrant lawsuit, filed by 26 states.
‘Stop the raids! Alta a la polimigra!’
Trumpets, trombones and tubas blared as two brass bands led the march, New Orleans-style, to rally before the Circuit Court. A battle between giant puppets broke out — a Latino worker in hard hat with tools in hand soundly defeating a Department of Homeland Security monster with a green head.
The hawk of La Raza flew in the United Farm Workers flag. Francisco Torres, a citrus farm worker from Porterville, Calif., marched with the banner, “Con la Union de Campesinos tendremos papeles/With a Farmworkers’ Union, we will have papers.”
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights carried “Brown is beautiful” signs, as nearby the Una Familia, Una Alabama red-shirted contingent was energized by a young child on a bullhorn shouting, “¡Obama escucha! estamos en la lucha!/Obama, listen up! We are in the struggle!”
Young people from the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice chanted over and over, “We believe that we will win,” a slogan from the Black Lives Matter movement. A Black and Brown Unity campaign was launched by civil rights forces in Alabama in 2011 to counter hate legislation against immigrants there.
Immigrant workers from Texas, the lead state in the reactionary lawsuit, were especially well-represented. Present were the Texas Domestic Workers Network, LITE (Latinos Inmigrantes Triunfadores) and FIEL (Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en Lucha/Immigrant Families and Students in Struggle) from Houston. Women from FIEL’s Justice Worker Center held signs with a unique Spanish spelling to emphasize that “workers” includes both women and men: “Todxs Somos Jornalerxs.”
Participants at the protest were clear they needed much more than the small relief offered by DAPA and DACA. Reyna Wences, a national leader in the DREAM Act movement, said: “The people risking arrest were there to put an end to the deportations and detention of immigrants. Because they know that DAPA is not enough for our communities that don’t qualify for that program.”
As the march continued, one participant summed up the struggle in a social media tweet: “They want our cheap labor, but they don’t want us to have rights.”
Photo: Immigrant rights protesters in New Orleans: ‘Without papers, without fear.’
Credit: Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice