March Demands Amnesty for Undocumented Immigrants

Fifteen thousand undocumented workers and supporters marched on Washington, D.C. October 16 to demand a general amnesty for undocumented workers.

The march was organized by the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty; it was the first national activity in the campaign for a new general amnesty.

Over one hundred organizations from 16 states were represented, overwhelmingly grass-roots Latino, religious, and immigrant rights organizations. The march received strong support from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the National Council of La Raza, and the American Friends Service Committee. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee mobilized members from Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, and the Laborers Union had a very strong presence from its Northeast locals. SEIU 1199 was also well represented.

“This is a struggle for, of, and by immigrant workers," said Patricia Campos, assistant director of LCLAA. "The strong presence of FLOC, LIUNA, and SEIU show the support unions are giving to this struggle for the rights of immigrants, but it is still our responsibility as immigrant workers to carry this struggle to the other unions and all the way to the federation.”

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez sent a strong message of support.

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The march was primarily Latin American in character, but also included Asian and African workers.

“This was a historic march where for the first time immigrant groups from throughout the country gathered together to say in one voice that they want better treatment from this country’s leaders," said Marleine Bastien, an organizer for the Haitian American Grass Roots Coalition in Miami. "Immigrants are really contributing to the development of this country at all levels. However, we have to live in constant fear of being deported. The fear of tomorrow not being able to raise our families in this country, of our children not being able to continue to go to school--this is mental slavery.

"It is unconscionable for this country, which is supposed to be the champion of human rights, to have such a poor track record on human rights," Bastien said.

Juan Jose Gutierrez of One Stop Immigration in California led the crowd in a pledge to return next year in stronger numbers for the same cause.

Members of the Coalition will be meeting in the next few weeks to decide the next step in the campaign.