Saturday, February 18, 2006

U.S. Immigration Reform:

Valentine’s Day in Pennsylvania
By C. Wheeler
February 15, 2006


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is about 5 hours from Philadelphia and did not participate in some of the activities that took place there last Tuesday for immigrants’ rights.


However, a Press Conference organized by local Interfaith organizations (PIIN-Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network) that day turned out to be a success and their urge for a comprehensive Immigration Reform to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter was unanimous.


After the press conference and the various speeches and statements from church members and attendees, religious leaders and activists members walked the streets of Pittsburgh to Senator Specter’s office and delivered over 800 letters to his representative.


Each leader restated their worry over current immigration bills and the negative impact that the press is inflicting in ordinary immigrant families.

Meanwhile, in spite of an absence of coverage from the national media, “Valentine’s Day,” a busy business day for many commercial entities, will be marked as the day of the “Paro” (strike) in Philadelphia.


According to ‘Day without an Immigrant’s organizers, el Paro was “awesome.” They were thrilled by the amount of awareness it generated in the City of Liberty and other areas. They are satisfied with the notion that it has inspired other regions to organize for immigrants’ rights in the country.

Several local news outlets, including Spanish speaking ones, indicated that there were over 1,000 immigrants and supporters protesting H.R. 4437 at 5th and Market Streets.

The Press of Atlantic City, Philly.com and other internet news reported an estimated 1,500 Spanish-speaking immigrants who came from Cumberland County, Jersey, and Delaware, to join the effort. They also stated that several businesses closed their doors in support of their employees’ livelihoods.

Witnesses said that strikers sympathizers from different nations and ethnicities mingled with them. Mr. Ananthan, an American senior citizen with roots in Sri Lanka and member of the Green Party of Philadelphia, felt it appropriate to accompany the march.


“There were press and TV coverage, besides there was a Chinese delegation across the street. It is difficult to give you a number of folks there. Definitely more than three thousand,” he stated.

In December of last year, the 4437 bill was passed by members of Congress, and it is now being reviewed by the Senate.

The Pennsylvania strikers and protestors intended to put pressure on representative, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) to come up with a realistic comprehensive rule of law for undocumented immigrants and put aside the pressures of H.R. 4437 lobbysts.

Although for some activists a strike may not be the answer to solve a labor problem, for the Hispanic community of Eastern Pennsylvania, this was the only strong statement to be sent to Senator Specter, one that was surely heard and noticed.

By reading the proposed H.R. 4437, one can determine that this is the worse legal proposal any individual can hope for from legislators since 1996. It not only affects immigrants and their families, but anyone who works for human rights and feels compelled to assist the unprotected.

Experts in the field have carefully analyzed each section of the bill and concluded that they are inadequate for the immigration community.

Several former refugees believe that if this bill passes, it would create a hostile environment in America similar to the one there was against Jews, where only a few brave Europeans risked it all to help them escape from persecution and death during World War II.

Also known as the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, this bill was drafted by Reps. James Sensenbremmer, R-Wisconsin and Peter King, R-NY., and is widely and heavily promoted by ultra-conservative media outlets in our nation.

The media’s powerful production has spread a negative image on poor undocumented workers by using common criminals in their strategy to discredit immigrant workers on a daily basis.

We all agree that criminals should be in prison and subjected to the corresponding legal due process. Illegal immigration is not a criminal offense; it is a civil matter that requires a different type of legality.

Criminalizing the entire immigrant community and those who assist them, is not the American way, and separating families and deporting 11 million working individuals is neither realistic nor comprehensive, according to the legal experts. This land developed economically and technologically with the sweat of immigrants.

Born by the frustration of H.R. 4437, Pittsburgh Friends of Immigrants for Immigrants Rights also joins the efforts of PIIN and daywithoutanimmigrant.org .

It also asks Pennsylvania Senator Specter to reject H.R. 4437 and encourages him to propose a realistic comprehensive immigration reform that will allow undocumented workers to take a step closer to the path towards American citizenship.

Its campaign “No to H.R. 4437” hopes to bring more attention and consciousness to the issue already built by Pennsylvanian immigrant workers, religious organizations and activists. It stimulates individuals to learn about the bill and contact their representatives to vote ‘no’ on H.R. 4437.

The fact that many of these undocumented workers’ contributions are regarded as meaningless to our society demonstrates that a fair legislature is required; immigrants do deserve credit for the benefits brought to American communities and a decent and legal place to call home. After all, immigrants’ children can also be found in the battle fields giving the ultimate sacrifice for their nation (America), along with any American citizen.

The legality of their status is necessary to secure their human welfare, which in return will provide pride and loyalty to the country, as well as improved productivity.

March will be a decisive month for immigrants’ future, and the northern part of the country is crowded with them. They were called “Pilgrims” at one time, now they are the hopeful Valentines.

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