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OWS connects struggle for rights of migrant workers with struggle of the 99%

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JAISAL NOOR, JOURNALIST: In New York on December 18, Occupy Wall Street joined forces with organizations for immigrants rights to mark International Migrants Day. Hundreds of Protesters honored the sacrifices of immigrant laborers and demanded businesses and law enforcement respect migrant workers’ human rights. They singled out the Obama administration for deporting record numbers of undocumented immigrants. Nearly 400,000 have been deported this year alone. Speakers also targeted recent legislation in states like Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia that label undocumented workers as criminals. This wave of anti-immigrant laws has gotten the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. The department recently singled out Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for racial profiling and denying Latino immigrants their basic rights. Arpaio has denied wrongdoing and said in a statement that this is a sad day for America as a whole, adding, he’s proud of the work he’s done to fight illegal immigration. But immigrants rights organizer Thanu Yakupitiyage said the federal government has not gone far enough.

THANU YAKUPITIYAGE, OWS IMMIGRANT WORKER JUSTICE WORKING GROUP: –the Department of Justice is bringing these issues into consideration. However, you can’t just talk of one person, one sheriff. This is about larger policies, and we need to talk about the reasons why programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g) doesn’t work. You cannot create programs that push to deport people without having some context of why it is that we’re trying to deport people in the first place.

NOOR: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets despite freezing temperatures and a massive police presence. Here are some of their voices.

PATRICIA FRANCOIS, DOMESTIC WORKERS UNITED: The reason why I’m out here today is about this trouble we all face, the farmworkers, the domestic workers, workers of all sectors. And we are not treated correctly. Some of us been abused physically, mentally, emotionally, long hours, short pay, because wages is very important. We have families that we need to take care of as well. We have kids that we have to send to schools. We have to pay for colleges as everybody else.

DONALD ANTHONYSON, FAMILIES FOR FREEDOM: All communities are impacted, because, one, we’re on the front lines, being people who the laws basically target first and foremost, people with criminal convictions. Secondly, the fact is, the attention of people–there’s a profit to be made. And the people then who make the profit from private detention and immigration detention have massive connections to Wall Street, either through the banks or the private investors. And the two major companies that are represented in the private [incompr.] industry that deals with immigration detention. CCCCA and Geo stand to make this year [incompr.] between two of them $3 billion. And that’s [incompr.] amount of money being made off of old people.

YAJAIRA SAAVEDRA, DREAM ACTIVIST: Mr. Obama, your term as president is still not over. As a minority, I know that experienced my pain while growing up. I know the challenges you faced through our corrupted system. And just like you, I want to be an overachiever, I want to provide for my family, I want to make change. But you’re not letting me. I am asking for you to use your executive powers to handle deportation of undocumented students and of superheroes like my parents, like the parents of dreamers.

SASHA NEHA AHUJA, ORGANIZER, STREET VENDOR PROJECT: And we know definitely that immigrants and people of color in general are disproportionately impacted by the current economic system. But that also–this, the United States, but countries globally, require exploitation to exist. And so that’s in large part why. You know, we see these systems in place, we see people continuing to be exploited, but we also see that our people have tremendous voice. And so that’s why folks are out here today.

YAKUPITIYAGE: [incompr.] when OWS started, it started as–because of this particular frustration that the white middle class was starting to feel around lack of jobs. And that’s fine, and I think that that was–it was a good opportunity. However, just because this is something that the white middle class is feeling doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been felt for decades by people of color, communities of color, and immigrants. Immigrants are some of the most exploited people in the United States and globally. They come to the U.S. and they work in low-wage jobs, they work in the restaurant industry, often paid minimum wage or less than minimum wage and under really harsh conditions. And so when we’re talking about trying to change the ways in which this country does things and the ways in which we do things globally in regards to a critique of neoliberalism, we have to also consider migration and the fact that people migrate for jobs, people migrate in order to get better livelihoods, and in order to ensure that people’s livelihoods, all of us collectively as the 99 percent, can have the kinds of lives we want. We have to consider immigrants as a part of that.

NEHA AHUJA: We know that many immigrants and many–just communities of color in general are seeing what Occupy Wall Street has generated as an opportunity to really speak about the issues that are impacting us the most, so racial inequality, economic inequality, particularly through the lenses of race and class as they impact immigrants and people of color. So I think we’re trying to take advantage of the opportunity that the movement has created.

NOOR: From port closures in Oakland to supporting the struggle against foreclosures and migrant worker rights, the Occupy movement has shown that being evicted from squares and parks has only led to its further growth. Reporting for The Real News, is is Jaisal Noor in New York.


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