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This year, on Saturday, Dec. 17, there will be an officially-endorsed Occupy Mega Marcha dedicated for the immigrant rights, at the Shemanski Park downtown.
Since the beginning of the Occupy movement, immigrants have been part of this movement, yet, in our quest for building a consensus for the 99 percent, immigrant issues have often become too invisible. In Portland, the only other public action on this topic was the Diversity Day, which unfortunately was eclipsed by the eviction and only attracted a small handful of people.
The immigrant rights are human rights, and they are vital part of American economy, whether or not they are "legal." Today, most undocumented immigrants are long-term residents among Americans, increasingly becoming part of our communities.
Yet, Nativist hate groups (the "Tanton Network" organizations and their affiliates) and private prison industrial lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are busy peddling pre-written bills in state legislatures and Congress calling for severe violation of human rights, not merely deportations, of immigrants -- undocumented and documented, even many permanent residents.
In Alabama, the House Bill 56 (HB56) was passed in order to “attack every aspect of an illegal immigrant’s life,” in the words of its sponsor. Now in Alabama, something unthinkable in America is happening in broad daylight:
- A mother in northern Alabama was told she could not attend a book fair at her daughter’s school without an Alabama state ID or driver’s license.
- A father called to report that his U.S. citizen daughter came home weeping from school after other students told her she did not belong there and needed to go back to Mexico—a country she had never visited.
- A judge advised a lawyer that the lawyer had obligation to report her own client to ICE as undocumented. The same judge stated that he might have to report to ICE any person who asked for an interpreter, as such a request would be a red flag.
- Latino workers on a construction jobsite were threatened by a group of men with guns, who told them to go back to Mexico and threatened to kill them if they were there the following day. They declined to report the crime to law enforcement because of fears of what would happen to them if they did.
- A clerk at a store in Bessemar told a Latino man (lawfully in the United States) from Ohio that he could not make a purchase with his bank card because he did not have an Alabama state issued identification or driver’s license.
- A victim of domestic violence went to court to obtain a protective order. The clerk told her that she’d be reported to ICE if she proceeded.
- A local bar association has advised its lawyers that if they are asked to report information about their undocumented clients to law enforcement, the requirements of HB56 will override the legal obligation to preserve a client’s confidences.
- By the first Monday after HB56 was allowed to take effect, 2,285 Latino students were absent from schools across Alabama; 7 percent of the total Latino school population. Since then, the Attorney General and the state have refused to share enrollment and absentee data to anyone, including the United States Department of Justice.
- A public school in Montgomery asked already enrolled Latino students questions about their immigration status and that of their parents. As a result, some parents are keeping their children out of school.
- In Allgood, the water authority posted a sign indicating that water customers would have to produce identification documents proving immigration status in order to maintain water service.
- In Northport, the water authority provided notices to Latino customers that their services will be shut off if they didn’t provide proof of immigration status immediately.
- In Madison County and in Decatur, the public utilities have announced that they will not provide water, gas, or sewage service to people who could not prove their status.
- Numerous probate offices, including the Montgomery Probate Office and the Houston County Probate Office, have published notices indicating that they will not provide any services to anyone without proof of immigration status. As a result, many immigrants cannot request birth or death certificates.
- An apartment complex manager in Hoover told residents they would not be able to renew their leases without proof of immigration status.
- Legal immigrants, including those with temporary protected status, have been told that they cannot obtain drivers’ licenses in the state.
- A worker called to say that his employer refused to pay him, citing HB56, and stated that the worker had no rights to be paid under this law.
- A mother spoke to the local office of the Department of Human Resources about her U.S. citizen children’s eligibility for food stamps. The social worker told the mother that she would be turning the mother into the federal government for deportation. The family went into hiding.
- Alabama Power told a family that they would not be able to have their electricity reconnected without providing proof of immigration status. That family left the state.
- A husband called us to report that his wife, nine months pregnant, was too afraid to go to a hospital in Alabama to give birth, and that he was trying to decide whether to have her give birth at home or somehow to try to get to Florida.
- A Latino man was arrested and detained. While in jail, he was told that he could not use the telephone to call his attorney because the use of the phone would be a “business transaction” prohibited by HB56.
This is reminiscent of the "Mark of the Beast" of Revelation chapter 13, in which no one can buy or sell without the mark -- and those without the mark was to be arrested and executed. The Republican-dominated Alabama legislature passed this while claiming to support "traditional Christian values."
Unfortunately, Alabama is not the only place. Oregon is in no way too far insulated from this kind of hate and injustice. In every legislative session, there are at least a few bills introduced in Salem that are meant to attack "illegal aliens" and many of them are sponsored by Kim Thatcher from Kaiser, who is affiliated with the Oregonians for Immigration Reform, the state affiliate of the Tanton-related Federation for American Immigration Reform.
The Occupy movement must resist the temptation to be divided on this issue. Immigrant rights are inextricably connected to workers' rights, unhoused people's rights, religious freedom, racial justice, women's rights and myriad of other human rights. We are all in this together as the 99 percent, and injury to one is injury to all.
Occupy Mega March: Saturday, Dec. 17: http://portlandwiki.org/Occupy_Mega_March_and_Rally_--_Immigrants%27_Rights_are_Workers%27_Rights!_12_17_11
When all the people of the world love,
Then the strong will not overpower the weak.
The many will not oppress the few.
The wealthy will not mock the poor.
The honoured will not disdain the humble.
The cunning will not deceive the simple.
-- Micius (China, 470?-391? BCE).
This is not an official statement of the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains.