Image by Betty Tsang of immigrant rights protest via Flickr Creative Commons

March of the Butterflies: Immigration Reform 2013

By Jamie San Andres

“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” chanted some of the masses last year at the May 1 march. Some may ask, what do the members of the immigrant community mean when they claim that the border crossed them? The fact of the matter is that the United States, among other global powers facing waves of immigration, are facing the consequences of historic and current international policies that aimed to serve the economic interests of global powers and have disrupted and/or destroyed the political and economic autonomy and independence of southern hemispheric countries.

For centuries, that process of international inequality has resulted in the impoverishment, exploitation, and displacement of peoples all over the world. Consequently, people seeking for a plate of food and life of dignity risk their lives to migrate north.

For thousands of years, before the notion of countries and borders was created by man, the Kuna indigenous peoples called the Latin American continent Abya Yala. For those thousands of years, humans had the freedom to migrate from the tip of Alaska to the tip of Patagonia, the southernmost region of South America.

Why humans today deny others that right, we still fail to understand. What we do understand, however, is that the manmade notion of border crossed the line when they came into our countries to ravish our goods and impoverish and displace our people. What we do understand is that migration is beautiful, that migration has been and should be a right.

Earlier last year, activist artist Fabiana Rodriguez, developed the image of the Monarch butterfly, known for their inter-generational, borderless migration, to symbolize this truth. The May Day Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a collaboration of pro-immigrant organizations and allies that for years has pushed for immigration reform, as well as defended the rights of immigrants through education and civic action, ask that for this year’s May 1 March everyone bring the image of the butterfly to symbolize the universality of migration, the borderless beauty of the migration of all peoples and things.

The May 1 March and Immigrant Rights Fair will take place on May 1 at 4 p.m. at the Fresno Superior Court (1100 Van Ness Ave.). There will be information on deferred action, citizenship, petitions and more.

As many may know, on April 16, immigration reform language was revealed. In Fresno, the May Day Coalition for Immigrants Rights, and other community organizations such as Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action, the ACLU of Northern California, Centro Binacional Para El Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO) and Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) met to exchange, outline and draft a proposal with principles that we considered necessary to be included in the discussion for immigration reform.

Immigration reform must first be humanized before it is politicized. The three levels of government must first listen to the affected immigrants, their families, pro-immigrant organizations, employers and any other entity that wishes to handle the problem and not worsen it. Representatives and senators must hold hearings in their districts to hear firsthand the testimonies of families. It is the right time for our proposals to be heard and taken into account in discussions of immigration reform. Henceforth, it is everyone’s responsibility to start working on an immigration reform that is just and humane.

  • We believe that immigration reform should start with a stop to deportations. Thousands of families will be separated before an immigration reform bill gets approved and signed into law.
  • Secure Communities and 287G programs and any collaboration between law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must end.
  • Legalization must include all immigrants that are already residing in the United States and their family members from the date that it is signed into law.
  • English-language studies should not be a requirement in order to obtain a residency card, and nobody should be disqualified due to language.
  • We propose a fast process with low fees based on the income of low-income workers without excessive fines.
  • Legalization should have a safe path to citizenship for everyone.

—   It must be inclusive for all productive sectors of society and their families.

—   It must be inclusive of same-sex permanent partnerships.

—   Furthermore, it should guarantee healthcare rights for everyone.

  • We propose the new law should not bar anyone with brief absences from the country or previous deportations from eligibility for residency or citizenship.
  • There must be pardons for people who have committed offenses in the past; we all deserve a second chance.
  • We believe that “criminal act” should be separated from the immigration process.
  • Family reunification should be an essential part of immigration reform; petitions should be processed in a timely manner and the three- and 10-year bars should end.
  •  Guest workers’ program: Current guest workers’ programs should be modified. Workers in these programs should be protected and guaranteed the same labor rights as everyone else.

—   Guest workers should have the option to stay legally in the country if they so choose and be permitted to bring their family members and obtain citizenship.

—   Guest workers should have the option to change employer, and employers who are found to violate the labor rights of workers should be eliminated from contracting guest workers.

—   The new immigration reform should guarantee the labor rights of everyone and should not interfere with the labor rights of workers.

  • Border security/enforcement: Legalization and citizenship of people should not depend on border security. There will never be a measure that will guarantee 100% border security.

—   We are not in agreement with the enforcement expansion or the militarization of the border.

—   There should be legal prosecution for border patrol officers who commit crimes against immigrants.

—   There should be no privatization of detention centers.

  • Internal enforcement: We are in favor of an enforcement system that does not hurt workers. The current E-Verify system has many issues, therefore it should be eliminated or at least modified because 40% of the database has errors.
  • Cultural rights and the native language of immigrant workers should be protected.

—   Immigration reform should pay special attention to work with immigrant-sending-countries to resolve the causes of immigration.

—   Immigration reform should also work with those countries to invest in a responsible manner in areas where immigrants are forced out of their communities due to the economic policies that the United States has with said countries.

For more information, contact Leoncio Vásquez Santos at 559-499-1178 or at Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), 744 N. Abby St., Fresno, CA 93701.

*****

Jamie San Andres submitted this article on behalf of the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Contact Jamie at conciencia614@gmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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