Illinoisians Join Immigrant National Convention and Protest in Alabama

December 19, 2011

This weekend, ICIRR is proud to have a delegation in Alabama for the Immigrant National Convention, to support the local organizing there, and to learn more about what we can do here to advance the rights of immigrants in 2012.

Aftet getting training and sharing with the immigrant community and representatives from across the country ICIRR delegation joined over 2,500 people to protest Alabama's HB56 the most regressive and hateful anti-immigrant legislation in the country.

Particpants rallied at the state captiol in and then marched to the Governor's office. Once there children delivered handwritten letters to Governor Robert Bentley from all across the state written by children to highlight the impact of HB56 on children and families.

The rally ended with one youth a US citizen with undocumented parents smashed a pinata of HB 56.

We will be posting reflections from participants in the action throughout the week. You can find reflections from the first day of the convention here.

 Below is a reflection of day 2 written by Marwa Abed

On the second day of the conference we began the morning plenary by hearing from a 19 year old from Alabama named Victor Palafox. Victor is your average Southerner, he's kind, proud, and speaks with humble ease. What makes Victor's story special is that he is undocumented. Him and another young man stood up and bravely shared their stories. As an audience member, I was awed by their courage and motivated to continue the fight for fair immigration policy. They shared insight into the fear they feel each morning as they leave to school and work, wondering if they will go home to find their families still there or detained in an ICE cell. The speakers shed tears--as did the audience--as they spoke of feeling unaccepted in places they feel to be home. Everyday is a battle in the United States for the undocumented. Even for the documented immigrant or the person of color, our nation has not always extended its arms of acceptance. This, we need to work to change. 

Martin Luther King preached from his church in Montgomery, Alabama about having a dream. Attendees of the immigration conference visited the very church he preached from and immersed ourselves in its history and symbolism. Fifty plus years ago, our nation worked to heal the wounds of segregation and bigotry, and today we continue to work to heal the injustices. Today, Alabama is site to HB56 and other racist immigration policies. The people of Alabama and the immigrants all over the nation still have a dream. That dream is to feel dignified, equal and to call America their home.  

Life is not--and should not--be about taking advantage of those who are most vulnerable. Do the people and politicians who pass laws like HB56 know about Victor's dream to be the first in his family to graduate high school and go on to college? Do they know about the other dreamers who only wish to contribute to this sometimes great nation? No human being is illegal. Each person in the U.S.--regardless of paperwork, status or birth place--have lives and stories that are rooted in the United States.  

After the morning plenary, attendees of the conference were asked to chose from three tracks that would determine which workshops they should attend. The track I chose to attend was "Electoral Power Training." The workshops were powerful in that they allowed for interaction among the organizers and presenters in laying the foundation for electoral plans that would best fit each of the attendees respective communities and context. The focus of the training was on skill development in electoral work. Immigrants are a part of the American fabric and we must encourage them to engage. The best way to combat racist immigration polities is through the ballot box. It doesn't matter who you vote for, as long as you are exercising your democratic right to choose and participate.  

Immigrants in the United States can be a powerful force if they account for themselves and exercise their power through political engagement. We can all march in the streets, but we must also march to the ballot box and demand representation.