Tag: May Day immigration demonstrations

Immigrant New Yorkers March Today for Immigration Reform

Javier Cuenca (in red) and another activist during preparations for today's May Day immigration rally - Photo: Maibe Gonzalez.

Javier Cuenca (in red) and another activist during preparations for today’s May Day immigration rally. (Photos: Maibe Gonzalez)

About a dozen documented and undocumented immigrants showed up yesterday at the Queens, NY office of community organization Make The Road New York, where they painted signs, packed food and coordinated transportation. Some also prepped to speak at one of today’s May Day rallies in Manhattan.

A prominent immigrant advocacy organization, Make the Road is one of about 60 community, faith and labor groups that are expected to participate in two major demonstrations for immigration reform this afternoon, as part of a national action day that includes demonstrations in a number of cities. (Feet in Two Worlds will have reports on rallies throughout the day.)

One of the volunteers was Javier Oscar Cuenca, a 33-year-old, football-player type Argentinean who recently moved from New Jersey to Queens.

Cuenca has been in the United States for eight years after overstaying a tourist visa and has sustained himself by painting houses. He’s been unemployed for the last four months, but is hopeful that under President Barack Obama reforms will be enacted that help him obtain legal status, work, and attend college. Despite being undocumented, Cuenca said he didn’t mind being identified in this story.

“I’m doing this because I have faith the reform will pass,” Cuenca said. “I’m 80 percent confident it will pass.”

Speaking of immigration reform at his White House news conference on Wednesday, President Obama reiterated his desire to “move this process.” But the president also indicated that strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border is a pre-condition.

If the American people don’t feel like you can secure the borders, then it’s hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, well, you’re just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.


On May Day Week in Arizona, Aging Mexican Braceros Still Fighting for Dignity

By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor
A handful of aging braceros are holding a weeklong protest outside the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix to claim wages taken from their paychecks during a guest-worker program decades ago - Photo: A. J. Alexander.

A handful of aging braceros are holding a weeklong protest outside the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix to claim wages taken from their paychecks during a guest-worker program decades ago. (Photos: A. J. Alexander)

PHOENIX, Arizona — While thousands across the nation plan to march for immigration reform this Friday, May 1, a handful of former immigrant farmworkers in their seventies are holding a different protest here.

The men still call themselves braceros, the inheritors of a largely criticized guest-worker program agreement between the United States and Mexico to satisfy the need for labor during World War II. Their story offers a cautionary tale about the prospect of future guest-worker programs touted by political leaders such as Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl as part of the answer to the need for immigration reform.

The braceros’ weeklong rally started on Monday, April 27th, outside the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix to demand that Mexico’s government settle a 40-year-old debt with them. This was money that was taken from their paychecks while they worked in the American countryside. Mexico was supposed to create a fund for the workers with that money, but its government just kept it.

Between 1943 and 1964 about 4 million braceros worked in the fields. About 400 of them now reside in Arizona. After the Bracero Program ended, they stayed and continued to work as undocumented labor. Today, many like Dionisio Garcia, 76, don’t have much to show for it when it comes to retirement.

“We’re here to see if they pay us,” said Garcia, a member of the Frente Bi-Nacional de Ex-Braceros, a retired farmworkers group from Arizona that organized the protest.

On a Wednesday morning, Garcia and his fellow ex-braceros stood outside the consulate holding a large sign demanding payment. For Garcia –now an American citizen–, it’s hard to stand for more than a few minutes ever since a cow broke his back at a cattle ranch four years ago.

“I’d just found out there was some money that they owe us,” said Manuel Coronel, 81. Coronel hides from the Arizona sun under a hat, sitting in his motorized wheelchair as he watches people come and go into the consulate.


Activists Announce May Day Demonstrations For Immigration Reform In Several Cities

Immigration activists confirmed Thursday that marches are planned for several cities on May Day to press the Obama Administration and Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  Immigrant advocates want to put pressure on the president to follow through on campaign promises to reform the nation’s immigration system. They also want a stop to enforcement raids and deportations.

“On May 1, we’ll go out on the streets to tell Barack Obama’s government and the Congress that we need an immigration reform with a path to legalization for millions of the undocumented,” Juan José Gutiérrez, director of Movimiento Latino USA, told Univision Interactive Multimedia (UIM) in Los Angeles.

Activists in L.A., Gutierrez added, will start demonstrating this Saturday, April 4, on the 41st anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “We will tell (the president) that the date is coming, the countdown to the 100 days when he promised to send an immigration reform proposal to Congress,” he said.

Gutiérrez said Obama had promised L.A. activists to send a bill to Congress before his first 100 days in office during a meeting in December 2007.