May Day coalitions hit the streets, VAWA struggles through Congress, Latino students face challenges in AL

8 May

Immigrant rights, Occupy and activists take to the streets on May Day 2012
This May Day, known in the U.S. as both a day to celebrate labor and immigrants rights struggles, activists representing many different movements took to the streets.  Reports suggest that there was less emphasis on immigrant rights and a smaller immigrant presence in the many actions from New York to Oakland.  However, the solidarity may help to connect the many issues that affect immigrant communities.  For example, one participant in a queer and immigrant contingent in New York commented: “Against the backdrop of national LGBTQ immigrant rights organizing, marching in solidarity and voicing protest on May Day felt crucial and particularly powerful.” Another observer highlighted the power of the queer and immigrant rights protests as In These Times’ Michelle Chen comments, “Occupy might provide a platform to tackle cross-cutting issues of human rights, labor rights, globalization, and the expanding police state.”

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) faces another hurdle in the House  
The importance of cross-movement solidarity is on display in the current effort to reauthorize VAWA.  Despite traditionally having been a bipartisan bill, VAWA has faced opposition by Republicans because of provisions specifically to protect immigrant, queer, and Native American women.  After passing the Senate, the House has now introduced a version that exclude these critical protections.  VAWA is a critical protection for immigrant women victims of domestic violence who may otherwise not seek help for fear of deportation.

Latino students in Alabama have high absentee and withdrawl rates
The U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division has sent a warning letter to the state’s department of education that the impact of the state’s anti-immigraiton law may be illegal. The chilling effect of this law is clearly very powerful; although the provisions that require students to report their immigration status have been blocked by federal courts, Latino students now have the highest rates of absenteeism and withdrawal.  Student records show that, 14% of Latino students have withdrawn from schools since the law went into effect.

Los Angeles program offers health insurance to undocumented restaurant workers
Developed by an organization of restaurant workers and a local community clinic, ROC-MD will provide restaurant workers, predominantly undocumented and uninsured, with preventative medical care for just $25 a month.  Other health insurance programs for low-income workers, such as Medicaid and the new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, exclude undocumented immigrants solely because of status.  ROC-MD is the first program in the nation and an innovative response to the unjust gaps in the health insurance system.

Supreme Court case of SB 1070 failed to address the rights of immigrants
New York Times commentator Linda Greenhouse highlighted the principal shortcoming of the argument against SB1070 with her commentary this week.  Disgusted with the solicitors and justices who spent the hearing “toying” with the elements of SB 1070, she points out that they failed to address the human rights problems with the law.  She writes that the focus seemed to become “which of two sovereigns, the United States or the state of Arizona, has the right to make the immigrants’ lives difficult.”



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