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PEP May 2006
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Public Employee Press

DC 37 marches for immigrant rights


Leading DC 37 contingent into 100,000-strong immigrant rights rally April 10 are DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts and Treasurer Maf Misbah Uddin. In recent months, millions have demonstrated nationwide.

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

Marchers from DC 37 merged seamlessly into the huge throng of demonstrators who streamed to lower Broadway in front of City Hall April 10 and rallied for immigrant rights.

The New York City crowd of immigrants and their allies — stretching north beyond Canal Street and estimated at 100,000 — joined demonstrators in more than 100 cities around the country in the massive National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights.

Sparked by the simmering need for a legal path to citizenship and angered by the draconian bill passed in December by the U.S. House of Representatives, millions of immigrants nationwide took to the streets in March and April.

Some 300,000 rallied in Chicago March 10, ½ million in Los Angeles March 25 and more than 200,000 in Dallas April 9 to protest the legislation, HR 4437.


DC 37 Treasurer Maf Misbah Uddin addresses huge throng.

Marching, voting
The April 10 demonstrators numbered 180,000 in Washington, 100,000 in Phoenix, 50,000 each in Atlanta and Houston and tens of thousands more in other cities. The demonstrations were all peaceful, and many protesters carried American flags and signs that said, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote.” HR 4437 would label undocumented immigrants as felons, subject to immediate arrest. The bill would also make it a federal crime — punishable by five years in jail — for even family, clergy and lawyers to give them assistance, including food and water. Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the so-called Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Act.

At the New York rally, elected officials and union leaders expressed their unequivocal support for the rights of immigrants. Executive Director Lillian Roberts led the DC 37 contingent with Treasurer Maf Misbah Uddin — a Bangladeshi immigrant himself — who addressed the rally from the podium at City Hall.

Those who would label immigrants as criminals, said Uddin, “are already criminals in the light of human decency.” He said, “Equal workplace protection is a right” and predicted that the “road to citizenship will be a reality for all.”

Also addressing the rally were New York’s U.S. senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer, Mike Fishman, president of Service Employees Local 32BJ, and Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers and the Municipal Labor Committee.

Senate efforts at a compromise bill fell apart April 7 as the Congressional spring recess began. As PEP went to press it was unclear whether new legislation would emerge after the break.

Gerald W. McEntee, president of DC 37’s national union, AFSCME, spoke out April 10 for comprehensive immigration reform: “Criminalizing immigrants who work hard and play by the rules is wrong. As long as undocumented workers lack basic protections under our laws, they will remain vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.” “AFSCME calls on Congress to pass legislation that will allow hard-working immigrants to earn their citizenship.”

Uddin closed his address by urging the throng to “fight like hell and fight together, because together we will win.”

 


 
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