Thursday, May 8, 2008

Under I.C.E.?

The May 1 march and rally was another triumph of one of the most important civil rights movements in the country. Along with the anti-war movement, the same sex marriage movement, the movements for universal health care, environmental justice and women's rights I count the movement for immigrant rights as vitally important.

Last week, my family, children and I marched with thousands of immigrants, both documented and undocumented and their allies in the faith and labor communities. It was one of the more exuberant marches that I have ever participated in.

The next day, President Bush's Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the taquerias of multiple communities across the Bay Area. I.C.E. locked up and detained 73 people, including children andpregnant and lactating women, and has initiated deportation proceedings on many of them, dividing family members and breaking up homes. These well coordinated retaliatory actions have instilled great fear among the immigrant community whose main aspiration is to live a life of dignity and independence, free from political intimidation, military rule, economic and environmental deprivation. Compared to other countries, the United States offers some hope for these aspirations.

Think about it: our nation's armies are able to move freely across the globe. The Bush Administration has sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Iraq in particular, the military has created hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees. Similar estimates count numbers of deaths. Global economic policies allow multi-national corporations and manufacturers to move freely across the globe to find cheaper labor and less stringent worker and environmental standards. This race to the bottom destabilizes communities, forcing workers to compete for insufficient numbers of low wage jobs and concentrate into ghettos that all too often lack basic infrastructure such as safe housing, sanitation, schools, access to clean water and transportation. Many immigrants come from such communities.

Despite not benefiting from the same global economic policies, workers are on the move. Deprived of mobility under the law, immigrants are members of a de facto borderless planet. Despite the daily struggle for dignity in the work place, for safer communities and better housing immigrants are in our midst. Throughout U.S. history immigrant workers have made great contributions to our economy. Immigrants are such an integral part of our everyday existence, that anti-immigrant enforcers have as much ability to stop immigration as they have the ability to live without the roofs over their heads that immigrants install, without the food or clothes that immigrants grow and manufacture, the offices that immigrants clean, the restaurants that immigrants run and child care that immigrants provide.

Clearly we need immigration policies that account for the reality of immigrant labor and the immigrant community. We need new policies that provide respite from intimidation and amnesty for the mix of documented and undocumented people who live here. Perhaps with a new administration in Washington we can have these types of policies.

On Monday, I joined again with the labor, faith and immigrant community to denounce these raids and pray for this better day. As a candidate I not only stand behind San Francisco's sanctuary city ordinance, I seek to strengthen it.