Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day 2006: "A Day Without Immigrants"

Historically, around the world May Day (May 1st) has been the day when working people took to the streets demanding their rights. May 1st is a holiday in many countries.

Today, millions of immigrants across the United States will take a sick day from work or school to peacefully march in protest of Congress' ill-conceived and overly punitive immigration reform proposals and to demand the recognition that is due them as an indispensable part of our labor force. This is not unprecedented in our country's history.

On May 1, 1886, workers in the U.S, many of them immigrants, took to the streets to protest oppressive working conditions. Over the course of the next several days, there was bloodshed and repressive police tactics, but thereafter, all worker's in the U.S incurred the benefits of an 8 hour, five day work week, the right to unionize and other needed protections.

Today there will be rallies, boycotts and work closures. Marchers are demanding recognition as indispensable members of U.S society, with the right to living wages, safe working conditions and protections. The want the same rights as any other member of the U.S: the right to travel, work, live, study and worship freely and safely,and reunite their families without discrimination and violence.

We need immigration reform. But the new policies must be humane and provide equality. Sensenbrenner's H.R. 4437, a bad bill, must go down to defeat. We do not want legislation that creates a "permanent criminalized underclass" or one that would split up families and not provide for a clear path to legalization.

There is some disagreement among pro-immigrant activists about the wisdom of today's marches. What do you think? Your comments are welcome.