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Know Your Rights
Source: Allvoices
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Migrant group launches 1M signature drive vs. deportations

MANILA, Philippines – An international alliance of migrants based in the United States launched a signature campaign to effect immigration reforms and stop massive deportations of foreign workers abroad.

In a media release sent to all voices, the United States Chapter of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), an aggrupation composed of more than 100 grassroots migrants’ organizations in over 25 countries said the “Campaign to Collect 1 Million Signatures for Genuine Immigration Reform and to Stop Deportations” is a global campaign to protect the rights of migrant workers all over the world.

The public launching of the campaign was held on February 5 at Bayanihan Center in Queens, New York, one of the most diverse immigrant communities in the US.

More than a hundred individuals and representatives of over a dozen immigrant rights groups and community organizations participated in the assembly, according to event organizers led by the US chapter of IMA.

The IMA-US chapter said the campaign is in support to a global movement to press Washington to undertake genuine reform regarding American immigration laws and put a halt to the deportation of immigrants.

The IMA-US chapter said the petitions would be taken to Washington DC and presented to the office of the President of the US and the leadership of the US Congress.

Antonio Arizaga, President of the United Front of Ecuadorean Immigrants (FUIE) and a member of the International Migrants Alliance in the US Directorate, stated, “We are demanding a just and humanitarian immigration reform which would promote the integration of the undocumented into society, permitting a dignified life, access to an education, healthcare and work without being victims of exploitation, abuse and violence.

He added, “The US government has to put an end to the raids and deportations which divide and destroy families.” Arizaga pointed out that racist authorities take advantage of these laws to implement racist policies on immigration, spreading them to various states with the purpose of denying immigrants the right to an education, health services, housing and jobs, and that neo fascist groups have used them to beat and murder immigrants.

In addition to the FUIE, other groups which participated were Philippine Forum New York, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), the Philippine organization KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support Network, the Philippine alliance BAYAN USA, the Philippine youth organization Anakbayan New York-New Jersey, representatives of the Dominican Frente Amplio or Broad Front which is an alliance of some ten organizations, members of the Sisa Pakari Cultural and Labor Center, Peruvians in Action (Peruanos en Acción), a representative of Domestic Workers Against Oppression, members of Pachakutik, an Ecuadorean indigenous-led organization, and the Assembly of Immigrant Communities (Asamblea Comunitaria de Inmigrantes).

Julia Camagong, member of the International Coordinating Body (representing U.S.) of the International Migrants Alliance and Co-Executive director of Philippine Forum in New York City, declared that, “A genuine immigration reform should stop the illegalization and criminalization of undocumented immigrants.

It should fix the backlog of visa processing to expedite family-based petitions to swiftly reunify families. We are tired of quick fix-it schemes that do not address the real issues of immigrants who are forced to leave their countries because of unemployment and poverty.”

Yves Nibungco representing the Filipino youth organization Anakbayan, put the responsibility for the displacement of millions of people throughout the world from their homelands, on the aggressive neoliberal policies implemented by global corporations which are destroying people’s livelihood, ruining the lives of farmers and peasants as they take over lands rich in natural resources.

He blamed imperialist wars of aggressions for killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions more.

Leandra Requena from Peruvians in Action decried that no immigrant leaves her native country willingly.

She declared that if there were jobs and economic opportunities in the poor countries of the world most people would prefer to remain close to their families.

Josefina Hernandez, from the Frente Amplio, urged the assembly to work towards greater unity of all immigrant organizations. She stressed that only through this unity would a genuine immigration reform be attained.

Vicente Mayorga, a member of Make the Road, blasted the federal government’s policies which have resulted in a record number of deportations of immigrants.

“These deportations are contrary to the electoral policies of the Obama administration, he said, and have caused indescribable pain and suffering to the hundreds of thousands of families affected by the deportations,” he said.

Speaking for NAFCON, Rusty Fabunan described the plight of thousands of Philippine immigrants who have been the victims of human trafficking. Many arrive here from the Philippines with the promise of a good paying job, but then have their passports taken from them by ruthless contractors or employers, submitting workers to lives of virtual enslavement as they are denied access to their friends, families or travel.

Although a webpage had been set-up with the intention of collecting signatures through the internet, the campaigners said they will also focus on the person-to-person contact and work to be successful.

During the launching, a large symbolic petition was signed by all who attended the event. The petition will now be sent across the US to make the campaign for 1 million signatures a national one and take it to as many cities as possible.

The IMA announced that shortly after Obama is reinstated in office or a new president sworn in, a million persons should be mobilized to the nation’s capital to maintain the pressure on politicians and push for genuine immigration reform.

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