****UPDATE 6/07:**** In response to passing the country's first universal ID, the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE, the new INS) raided homes in Fair Haven, a largely Latino neighborhood here with a strong immigrant community. They arrested 29 people on immigration charges starting at 6 a.m. yesterday, some of whom didn't even have warrants with New Haven police. There is an emergency march tonight for anyone who's around, 7:30 at 115 Blatchley Ave. It's clear that this was an attack punishing the city for welcoming and supporting immigrants.
Yesterday, after three years of organizing, New Haven's Board of Aldermen approved a plan for municipal ID's for all New Haven residents, regardless of immigration status. Before last night's Board hearing, a group of anti-immigration "activists," including Minutemen-connected Southern Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Reform, held a protest in front of City Hall. Outnumbering them at least three-fold was a diverse counter-protest.
The anti-immigrant tactics stooped lower than usual--the most hard-hitting argument they could make against immigration was a series of signs with the photos of people who had been killed by illegal immigrants (and how many have been killed by legal residents in comparison?). Other highlights included one of them dropping an ice-pick he just happened to bring with him and Ted Pechinski hitting a woman in the chest.
But my least favorite part of counter-protesting was watching with disappointment as two black men joined their side of the protest face-off. Pechinski and SCCIR have been passing out flyers geared specifically toward Black and Latino residents, to divide our communities--brown vs. browner--for their own political gain. Mayor DeStefano has called them out for "race-baiting", but it's unfortunately an easily exploited divide. This is a tactic that's been used before by the Minutemen. Interestingly enough, at the same time that they recruit Black people with fear tactics, they also court neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. Talk about being used!
We as Black people and we as immigrant rights supporters are fighting the same fight. We are hurt by the same racism. Our very existence is denounced by the same politicians and pundits. The same forces of race- and class-based oppression seek to ignore us or wipe us out altogether. There's no reason for the Civil Rights Movement to end at Black civil rights--we can fight stronger fights with a diverse group of allies. Plus, let's not forget that there are plenty of immigrants who are not Latino--but that certain groups of people in this political climate are simply easier for pundits to demonize.
I read an essay in a feminist zine once that since the biggest pitfall of mainstream feminism was a failure to include women of color, no feminist movement will really work without not only including but supporting and truly caring about women of color. And because communities of color are disproportinately lower-income, it must sincerely reach far beyond the middle-class. And since one marginalized group within communities of color is queer people, this feminist movement must give that same support to queer people--and not just lesbians, but all kinds of queer and trans people in all kinds of genders. And it can't be based solely out of the academy, or political parties, or cities, or Western notions of change--and soon enough this movement will encompass everyone fighting every fight, save for the few rich educated hetero white men trying to rule everyone else from the very tippy top. So much power would come from these alliances! and for once those rulers would be the marginalized ones. It's a totally utopian idea, but it's also something to strive for when we ask ourselves who are our allies.
Props and congratulations to Unidad Latina en Acción for leading this fight here in New Haven, and everyone else forging these alliances elsewhere.