By Paul Hill
HOUSTON - 1500 people marched from the Galleria shopping center in Houston to Grady Park to express their opposition to HR 4437 on February 26, 2006. Participants included a broad coalition of people. The march was organized by CRECEN, which is a local organization which helps immigrant workers and their families. The invitations for the march were titled "March for Dignity and Respect." There were a number of organizations representing people from Central America to include Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. Labor was well represented and SEIU was very visible wearing their Justice for Janitors tee shirts. SEIU just recently won a major victory in Houston when several office cleaning companies agreed to allow the workers to organize a union. Other organizations included National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), America para todos and Salvadoran American National Network (SANN).
The march took place near the neighborhood of former President George H. W. Bush, one of the wealthiest in Houston.
HR 4437 contains drastically repressive measure which would criminalize undocumented workers and anyone who helps them, e.g. teachers, social workers, clergy, health care providers, etc.
It was a beautiful day in Houston and the weather was very conducive to an overwhelmingly successful event. The crowd was multi-ethnic and included people from all age groups. Spirits were extremely high. During the march participants loudly chanted "Arriba! Abajo! Sensenbrenner al carajo! (Above and below! Sensenbrenner has gotta go!)," "Pueblo que lucha triunfa! (The people who fight, win!)." "Ni terroristas, ni llegales, somos trabajadores internacionales! (Not terrorists, nor illegal, we are international workers!)," "No justice, no peace!" and "El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido! (The people united, will never be defeated!)."
There were very few hecklers. I saw a Caucasian male in a new red Mercedes sports car shout "Go home!" at the participants in the parade. We responded by increasing the volume of our chants, thus drowning him out.
Participants were very vocal in expressing their opinions about HR 4437. Lorenzo Guevara of Hondurenos Unidos de Texas told me, "We're fighting and opposing HR 4437! We would like for the immigration laws to be changed to allow the immigrants here to be permanent residents. We're totally against the border wall they're building because it will not stop immigration and it is dividing us! HR 4437 is offensive! It reduces the human rights of every person. If approved, it will hurt the economy of the U.S. and threaten the security of the country. Central American cannot handle the repatriation of all those people. Violence will be invited and will increase. Poverty will increase."
Deniz, an activist with the Chicano Student Alliance, told the World, "The reason why we're here is to show support to immigrants. We want to let the people who are trying to take immigrant's rights away that Americans of Mexican descent feel a bond with the immigrants and therefore will not let them struggle alone."
Many people were concerned about the effect the repressive legislation will have on families. Ruben said, "We believe the law 4437 they want to pass will hurt families. We have families who need to work. The U.S. needs us and we need them. I don't think there should be any penalty for helping people and their families who want to come here and have a better life."
Autumn Weintraub, a spokesperson for SEIU, told me "SEIU works on immigration
reform on a national level. In cities across the country we are working to make
sure that Sensenbrenner doesn't pass. The bill would criminalize the church
for helping undocumented workers and that's unacceptable. We have long felt
that the system is broken and there are creative solutions to the problem."
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