By Teresa Gutierrez, Workers World, March 24, 2010
Washington, D.C. - On March 21 a multitude of immigrants and their supporters amassed in the largest demonstration for immigrant rights in Washington, D.C., in decades, if not ever.
There were at least 200,000 people at the biggest immigrant-rights rally in this country since 2006. The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino/a, but pockets of Koreans, Filipinos, Africans and Muslim immigrants and families were also there in proud attendance.
People traveled from as far away as Colorado, Texas and California. Homemade signs called on President Barack Obama to keep his promises for immigration reform and urged the government to stop dividing families.
The intentions of the main organizers of this historic demonstration for immigrant rights may have been complex and varied. But the world should make no mistake about it: Every single person who came to the demonstration was there to demand legalization.
Furthermore, they were confident that immigrants have earned legalization over and over — and are not asking but are demanding it.
It was reported that the huge size of the crowd was in large part due to the money that poured in from unions tied to the Democratic Party as well as from the Democratic Party itself. In fact one of the rally speakers was a representative of MoveOn.org.
Nonetheless, it was an encouraging day that especially made Latinos/as proud as the crowd over and over again chanted, “Si se puede!” (Yes, we can!)
When it was announced that President Obama would be addressing the rally, the crowd roared in approval.
Obama’s intervention indeed made it one of the most interesting developments in this country since his election. In fact, this writer has never been to a progressive protest rally where a U.S. president has spoken.
While immigrants and their advocates may be buoyed by the huge turnout, it was also a day of concern and apprehension for anyone who is looking deeper into this issue.
Unfortunately, most of the speakers at the rally, including President Obama, repeated the demand for “comprehensive immigration reform.” This formulation has regrettably become a cover for a policy that is fraught with danger.
Obama endorsed the reform bill being proposed by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Although the most progressive wing of the immigrant-rights movement has not made a full analysis of the Schumer bill since it was just recently introduced, preliminary assessments are that it may be like the thoroughly reactionary Sensenbrenner bill called by another name.
For example it calls for a biometric ID system for all U.S. workers. This will be ominous for the entire working class and it may push the undocumented further underground.
In the next few weeks, the most progressive wing of the movement will be addressing these bills. It will be figuring out the next steps of the movement in light of the historic March 21 demonstration.
But one thing is for sure. The March 21 demonstration confirms that May Day 2010 is more important than ever.
Immigrants and supporters are being told by many that “comprehensive immigration reform” — which means legalization for few and more militarization of society — is the best they are going to get. But history shows that militant action that represents the interests of the working class can win genuine gains.
The voices saying that legalization with no militarization is not realistic are the same voices who told women and Black people that they would never win the right to vote.
A mighty May Day 2010 that brings in not only immigrants but workers who want to fight for jobs, students who demand high-quality public education, youths who want education not jails or military recruitment, progressives fighting the wars abroad and all sectors is the kind of movement that can win the demands of the people, including legalization.
WW photos: First photo by Heather Cottin & third photo by Dante Strobino