Activists To March Across NC For Immigrant Rights, Trade Policy

By Witness For Peace, Press Release, March 30, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. - Beginning April 5, activists from across North Carolina will march 100 miles to advocate for immigrants' and workers' rights, and for a fair trade policy.

"We hope to raise awareness about the injustices that migrants face after crossing the border," said Witness for Peace Southeast Regional Coordinator Gail Phares, who is organizing the event as part of the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America. "In the past few months, North Carolina has seen a rise in immigration raids and anti-immigrant ordinances, and we hope to put an end to the fear and uncertainty that many people feel toward migrants who are coming to the U.S. to escape extreme poverty.

"It is urgent that we develop a just immigration policy at the state and national levels that will allow people to migrate in a legal and safe manner," said Phares.

The marchers, who represent more than 33 organizations and churches, will travel through nine North Carolina cities. At each stop, participants will meet with various leaders and devote attention to issues that are the backbone of the U.S., such as liberty and humane immigration laws.

Highlights of the trip include visits with striking workers in Moncure and to a prison in Graham where immigrants are held. The group will also hold a press conference in Burlington about Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows law enforcement officers to arrest undocumented workers.

Phares and a group of 20 North Carolina leaders recently returned from a ten-day trip to Mexico, where they met with the U.S. Embassy, Mexican leaders and residents to learn why people migrate. This is the 23rd Annual Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace.

Each city the march visits will have specific events addressing various immigration issues related to the area. One crucial aim of the march is to raise awareness of 287 (g), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's program that gives local law agencies access to databases so officers can identify illegal immigrants they have arrested.

The march coincides with Holy Week allowing more than 200 persons of faith and conscious to demonstrate for peace and social justice.

Witness for Peace is a 26-year-old organization that seeks to change American policy in Central America and the Caribbean regarding migration, trade, human rights violations, labor rights, and debt and structural adjustment programs. With North Carolina becoming a hotbed of anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years, Witness for Peace has worked all over the state to highlight issues of trade and immigration. More information on the organization and its many projects can be found at

The Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America has assembled 33 labor organizations and churches to participate and support the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage schedule is as follows:

April 5: Charlotte, N.C. Matt Emmick 704-936-6839

April 6: Asheville, N.C. Coleman Smith 828-301-6683

April 7: Winston-Salem, N.C. Eric Jonas 336-662-5333

April 8: Pittsboro, N.C., Burlington, N.C., and Graham, N.C. Jerry Markatos 919- 542-2139

April 9: Greensboro, N.C. Lori Khamala 336-413-8905

April 10: Raleigh, N.C. Scott Bass 919-231-9752 or Gail Phares 919-624-0646

On April 5, Palm Sunday, we will march in Charlotte for Immigration Justice. The next day, in Asheville, we will demand an end to raids and deportations.

Tuesday April 7th, we will walk with the FLOC in Winston-Salem demanding justice for farm workers and calling on Reynolds Corp. to improve working conditions for farm workers and increase salaries. In the afternoon we will walk from Moncure to the plant to join striking Moncure workers who seek a contract with the plywood company.

On Wednesday, we will meet in Pittsboro with the chairman of the County Commissioners George Lucier to thank the Chatham County Commissioners for rejecting the 287g contracts with the immigration authorities. In the afternoon we will meet at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Burlington to denounce the Alamance County Commissioners and Sheriff Terry Johnson. Their use of 287(g) has led to racial profiling against the immigrant community. At 2:30 we will walk to Graham stopping at the Sheriff's office and the county jail where immigrants are held.

Thursday, April 9th we will meet at the American Friends Service Committee offices at 6306 W Market St in Greensboro. We will go to Guilford College to speak to students and in the afternoon will hold a press conference focusing on local enforcement of 287(g). That evening we will have dinner with homeless people at the HIVE and discuss the immigration issue.

On Good Friday, April 10th at 8:30am we will gather at Cokesbury United Methodist Church at 3315 Poole Road to begin our walk into Raleigh. We will walk past homicide sites and stop in front of Central Prison to call for an end to the death penalty. We will then proceed to the NC State Capitol where we will pray the Economic Justice Way of the Cross from noon until 2:00 pm. This service will be in both Spanish and English, and will include Joseph Gossman, Catholic Bishop of Raleigh as well as many other religious and human rights leaders from various faith traditions. About 200 people of faith and conscience are expected to participate.

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