Sunday, June 22, 2008

Part 2 of interview with Mark Brenner on the SEIU Convention...

Part 2 of my interview with Labor Notes repoorter Mark Brenner on the 2008 SEIU Convention will air on tonight's episode of Labor Express Radio. For part 1, go here...
http://www.archive.org/details/LE6-15-08

Friday, June 20, 2008

The buses start rolling in…






As expected, about 2 AM, buses and vans of detainees began to role into the facility. Regulars to these vigils say that dozens of vehicles a night will drop of detainees at the facility on a typically Friday. That’s potentially hundreds of immigrants in one night. I must admit that the scale of the problem has really hit me for the first time. Hundreds of undocumented immigrants are torn away from their families and deported to countries, some may have not seen since early childhood. I think everyone here tonight is sharing my feelings of anger and depression at this pointless injustice. Do those who have pursued this policy really believe they are making our communities any safer by taking factory workers, landscapers, day laborers away from their families?

The small van you will see in the pictures below apparently makes the rounds regularly in the La Villita neighborhood, visiting local lock ups in its nightly search for undocumented immigrants to deport. The personal that staff this van are apparently not actually ICE or DHS employees, but independent contractors who are paid to round up immigrants in Chicago’s Mexican community. Some of the regulars of these vigils explain that some of the vans that prowl the streets of Pilsen and La Villita have bumper stickers of Mexican radio stations plastered on their back bumpers in an effort to make them appear part of the community. Attendees at tonight's rally have witnessed ICE agents standing at the front of Pilsen area grocery stores recently, visually scanning the customers in a heavy handed form of intimidation – an effort to make the undocumented feel unsafe, even in their own neighborhoods - an attempt to put an entire community on notice.

The Broadview facility is mainly a processing center. Most of those brought here have already spent weeks or months at another detention facility. Most will be taken to O’Hare airport shortly after arrival at Broadview, for deportation.

So far a bus from McHerny has contained the largest number of detainees. A school bus turned into a prison vehicle, it looked as if its 75-80 seat capacity was in full use. Watching uniformed members of a police agency entitled “Homeland Security” fill buses with immigrant workers, to shuttle them off to detention facilities far from their families and communities, it is hard to not make analogies to the worst police states of the past.

I am told the buses will continue to roll in until around 6:00 AM.

You can see more pictures here…


Night of 1,000 Conversations...


As I write this, it is shortly after 1 AM. I am camped out in front of the Broadview detention center in Broadview Illinois, a Chicago suburb, with a couple dozen immigrants rights activist. ICIRR, (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) is holding an all night vigil outside the detention center to call attention to the increase in raids and deportations over the last year.

The goal of the vigil, called “Night of 1,000 Conversations”, is to get people talking about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy of splitting up families and holding undocumented immigrants for long periods of time in detention centers like Broadview all over the country. ICIRR argues that many of the practices of DHS are violations of the immigrant’s basic human and civil rights. Earlier in the evening, husbands, wives and children of detainees described the anguish of being separated from their family members and their uncertainty over their future. About 150 or so individuals listened to these testimonies and where then encouraged to break into small groups to talk about their own experiences with the immigration system, and what they could to help change DHS policy. They were asked to begin the process of "a 1,000 conversations."

It is now around 1:30 AM and about two or three dozen individuals remain, stretched out on sleeping bags and holding hot cups of coffee, determined to maintain their vigil until 8 AM. Some of the nuns in attendance hold a similar vigil here every Friday. They say detainees are normally brought into the facility around 2 or 3 AM from area jails. We are anxious to see if DHS will chose to bring in new detainees tonight and hope our presence outside the facility may offer the detainees some small sense of comfort.

You can find more photos of tonight’s vigil at…http://s207.photobucket.com/albums/bb5/kronstadt2/ICIRRVigil/

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Congress Hotel Strike Enters 5th Year...


It’s official. The Congress Hotel strike is now the longest active strike in the country. Yet the workers continue to man the picket line everyday. There are no new developments in the strike, and few expect there to be any major breakthroughs soon, but the annual strike anniversary rallys have become a yearly gathering site for nearly all of Chicago’s progressive union activists. Hundreds gathered outside the Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago today, in an almost party like atmosphere, complete with a New Orleans style Jazz band. As fun as the event has become over the past few years, let’s hope it will not need to be repeated next year.

Here is some audio from today’s rally…

Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE-HERE Local 1, talks about the massive turn out of workers and their supporters at the 5th anniversary rally of the Congress hotel strike in Chicago. The strike in now officially the longest running active strike in the country.


http://www.archive.org/details/HenryTamarinAtCongressHotelStrike5thYearAnniversary

Imelda Martinez, employee of the Congress Hotel in Chicago talks about attending the picket line 5 days a week for the past 5 years, at the 5th strike anniversary rally outside the hotel.

http://www.archive.org/details/ImeldaMartinezCongressHotelStriker