A Day Without White People

On May Day, the masses rose up in New York. But where were the white peaceniks?

"Bush messed up by making a war for oil," added Frank, a fellow Ecuadoran and former U.S. Army specialist from Washington Heights, who also declined to give his last name. "Now he's pointing at the Mexicans and Latinos and making people believe that we're the problem with the economy. But we are just the scapegoat."

"We are the new black men of America," Frank charged.

Jesse Jackson too sought to dispel efforts to pit Black Americans against immigrants. "Immigrants aren't sending good jobs overseas, corporations are," he told the crowd.

Forming a human chain in the Bronx
photo: Giulietta Verdon-Roe
Forming a human chain in the Bronx

There's an obvious alliance waiting to happen between the broader anti-war movement and the immigrant-rights struggle, if activists on both sides can look beyond their most immediate demands.

While the Minutemen and their allies talk about how immigrants steal jobs and drain the economy, it's really the war that's siphoning tax dollars and sending the deficit upward at a frightening rate.

One common focus could be to expose how the Bush administraton's Iraq venture is eating into pensions, education, and social services—putting the squeeze on American workers and their standard of living—because those threatened workers, blacks and whites, are now turning the blame on immigrants.

The competition for money becomes apparent when you consider that Senate Republicans voted last week to divert money from the troops in Iraq to pay for more border security.

Linking the anti-war and immigrant rights movements could also expose how the war on terror is dovetailing into a war on immigrants, with affects for all our civil liberties. Consider the title of the House bill HR 4437: "The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005."

Although the so-called "compromise" legislation being debated in the Senate isn't quite so draconian, it still calls for building a highly policed 700-mile border fence, using domestic military bases to detain immigrants, and enabling Homeland Security agents to expel foreigners without hearings.

"After 9-11, the war on terror became a silencer for the immigrant community," says Carolyn D. Hermogenes, a Filipino organizer with CAAV and member of Immigrant Communities in Action, a coalition of 20 groups representing various nationalities that formed to oppose HR 4437. "But this legislation became a wake-up call that if we don't speak up now, we're going to lose our rights. So people are seeing now that they need to fight against the war too, because they are using the war on terror to silence communities of color."

At Monday's march, many immigrants said they would have liked to attend Saturday's anti-war march but couldn't afford to take time off for both.

Among them was Salvador Ardon, who came to the U.S. as a teenager to escape the war in El Salvador and is still without citizenship 24 years later. He marched with a placard displaying pictures of his sister, a staff sergeant in the army who is now on her second tour in Iraq. Also pictured were his two nephews in the army, one of whom just returned from Iraq.

"I gave my country what I love the most, my children," Ardon wrote on his sign, referring to his sister's family. On the back he added: "We love USA."

But even Ardon said he opposed the war in Iraq and wants his sister to come home. "It's just too dangerous over there now," he says, shaking his head.

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