Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday April 16th, 2014, 2:22pm

Chicago Activists To Demand A Stop To Deportations On May Day

Activists participating in the upcoming May Day workers' march and celebration in the city of Chicago will deliver a clear message to President Barack Obama — two million deportations is too many.

May 1, or May Day, is an international day of honoring workers. Since 2006, an annual May Day rally has been held in Chicago, highlighting immigrant rights as an important aspect of the workers' rights debate.

Thousands of people attended last year'sMay Day event in the city to rally for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which is now stalled in Congress.

This year, the main message is about deportations. The goal is to "try and keep the pressure on the [Obama] administration to do everything that's in their power to defer action to a broader group of immigrants working here in the United States, and do that quickly," said Susan Hurley with Chicago Jobs with Justice.

"We have approached or passed a milestone of 2 million people being deported [under the Obama administration], and that's just too many families being separated," she added. "It's got to stop, and if we can't get legislation that will fix our broken system, then we need to back off the deportations until we can get that legislation." 

Hurley as well as other local labor and community leaders announced details about the May 1 event Wednesday morning in front of the Haymarket Memorial, which commemorates the Haymarket Tragedy that took place in Chicago on May 4, 1886 during the peak of the American labor movement.

Labor goups, immigrant rights advocates and other organizations are set to rally at the Haymarket Memorial, located at 175 North Desplaines St., at 3 p.m. on May Day. From the Haymarket Memorial, the group will march to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building at 101 West Congress Parkway for a protest.  

Larry Spivack, president of the Illinois Labor History Society, said the 1886 Haymarket riot was "a fight of immigration and a fight to create justice for all workers." 

"The Haymarket [Memorial] was dedicated to the martyrs of Chicago, and it's unique this year that the march for ... immigrant rights will begin here at the place where workers around the world every May 1 celebrate," he noted. 

Next month's May Day action will also highlight the Fight for 15 campaign spearheaded by low-wage fast food and retail workers across the country. Those with the campaign have been calling for higher wages, better workplace conditions and the right to form a union without retaliation. 

"The Fight for 15, the fight for low-wage workers, is the same fight as the fight for the eight hour [work] day over 125 years ago," Spivack stressed.

Chicago Fight for 15 member Victor Guzman, who has worked at McDonald's for two years, said he and other immigrant fast food workers should not have to fear for their jobs due to their immigration status.

"Sometimes bosses threaten to call the police or check our papers when we speak out against injustice on the job or try to organize," he said. "I don't think it's right that this is happening because there's no just immigration reform."

Without a stop to deportations and an immigration policy that respects every worker, big corporations like McDonald's "will only continue to exploit us and profit from our hard work," Guzman added.

SEIU* Local 1 member Genoveva Ramirez, who is currently in deportation proceedings, plans to take part in the May Day event.

"We all need to be united and in solidarity with one another," she told Progress Illinois, speaking through a translator. "If the community was able to stop my deportation, we're going to be able to stop other deportations as well. But we need to stand together in order to do that."

Ramirez, originally from Mexico, has worked in the United States for the past 13 years and cleans office buildings in the Chicago suburbs. In February of 2013, Ramirez was pulled over by police while driving after she failed to use her turn signal. She was detained for two weeks due to her immigration status, and was eventually granted a one-year deportation reprieve. She has to reapply for a stay of deportation each year.

"How can it be that after so many years of being an honest person and hard worker that I ended up in a cell," she asked. "Thankfully, because of community support and pressure I am still here fighting my deportation case. But many are not. There have been more than two million families that have suffered. Two million is too many."

Hurley stressed that the upcoming May Day march is about all workers.

"This is the largest demonstration and march of workers and community organizations and labor unions that happens every year in Chicago. We all have a place in the march," she said. "I encourage everyone to join us, because it's a broad struggle for justice for all workers."

Make sure to check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of the May Day events.

*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.


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