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May Day march in Chicago focuses on immigration reform

Carl Rosen, a worker for the United Electrical Workers was one of hundreds of people who participated in a May Day march in downtown Chicago on May 1, calling for immigration reform.

“We need to legalize the status of the 11 million undocumented workers that are here because otherwise they are being used to drive down living standards for everybody,” Rosen said.

Rosen said he believes immigration reform is needed to bring out undocumented workers and to give them the same rights as everyone else.

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“Legalization is certainly an important first step and so that (immigrants) can’t be discriminated against in the workplace and so that they can have full worker rights when they want to unionize or when they want to make sure they are being paid the proper wages,” Rosen said.

Rosen also discussed how fear exists heavily in the workplace because immigrants aren’t able to speak out if something doesn’t go their way.  Rosen explained that since they are immigrants they could easily be deported with one wrong comment to their employers.

“All of things as of right now if they attempt to raise issues around they could be immediately fired, possibly deported, etc. So we need to remove that fear from the workplace,” Rosen said.

There were broad groups around Chicago that came out to fight for immigration reform.  T-shirts and slogans at the march stressed the importance of keeping families together and equal job opportunities.

Hundreds of people in search of immigration reform gathered at Union Park in Chicago for the march.  May 1 is International Workers Day. This year, teamsters and activists teamed up to have a May Day march to let government officials know that they want immigration reform.

“What we want to see is giving the folks that are already here working legal status and also coming up with a way to protect workers who have yet to come in the country,” Bob Rieter of the Chicago Federation of Labor said.

One of the purposes of the May Day march was to try to pass federal legislation to make it easier for immigrants to get citizenship. This spring a group of eight senators presented draft legislation.

“We want immigration reform,” Emma Moreno of Chicago said.

May Day Chicago. Photo by Get Directly Down
May Day Chicago. Photo by Get Directly Down

Union Park was filled with different races and ethnicities, but the majority was of Hispanic heritage.

“Don’t forget that this is an immigrant country, but in this case because we are the Hispanic community we organize the May Day and we are together with different communities,” Moreno said.

Before the march officially began, speakers from different organizations spoke about the march and what May Day meant for them.

“The government is continuing to divide families because they are deporting sometimes the father or the mother,” Moreno said.

One person in particular, Ivan Ibarra of Chicago, had a story that stood out.  He was out marching also in search of equal immigration rights. He also wants it to be easier and quicker for immigrants to gain citizenship in the United States. He explained how one of his very close friends had a brother who was battling cancer.

“My friend’s brother had cancer and was deported and he wasn’t able to get the medical care they he needed in Mexico,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra said how his friend’s brother was sent back to Mexico.  The healthcare in Mexico is not as nearly good and helpful as it is in the United States.  His friend’s brother was left by himself in Mexico with no appropriate healthcare that was needed for a cancer patient. As a result, Ibarra explained that he died earlier than expected and his family wasn’t able to return to Mexico to take care of him because they were immigrants too.

One of the goals of the current bill proposed in the U.S. Senate is to bring illegal immigrants into the system and require them to pay back any taxes that they owe. Most immigrants won’t be able to gain citizenship until 10 years.

There were several families that marched that were in search of immigration reform. Mothers, fathers and children of all ages marched together from Union Park to Federal Plaza.

So what would immigration reform mean for families in the United States?

“It means a bright future with the parents united with the family, the children,” Yolanda Riveras of Chicago said. “You see the mother, father and the children. You wouldn’t want to be taken away or have one of your parents taken from you, would you?”

The march from Union Park to Federal Plaza lasted a little bit over two hours long. Throughout the march, people from different buildings would look down. Some had excited expressions on their faces, while others looked disgusted.

After the hundreds of activists and reformists reached Federal Plaza, people from different organizations spoke about what an immigration reform would mean to the people in search of it. They had people talk about their personal struggles with the current immigration battle in the United States.

The May Day March resulted in hundreds of people coming out to support a cause. Each person had his or her own belief of what needed to happen, but they all came together for the same cause. Over 145 different parishes in Chicago showed up to support the fight on immigration reform including organized labor, churches and immigration groups.


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