It has been reported dead many times, but to its enemies’ chagrin, the Occupy Wall Street movements is alive, active and growing.
Immigrants are one of the latest groups joining the OWS ranks.
Few would dispute that there is no group more clearly part of the 99% than immigrants. Yet they have been mostly absent from the movement that emerged as a protest against precisely the kind of injustices and abuses immigrants endure every day.
But to address this disconnect, a group of immigrants, advocates and union people founded the OWS Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group with the purpose of mobilizing immigrants to join forces with the OWS movement.
Just a few weeks after the Zucotti Park occupation started, in the first week of October, two people involved from the beginning of the movement, Phil Arnone, one of the 700 protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, and Emma McCumber, who slept many nights in the park, contacted immigrant workers' centers and immigrant rights' advocates to connect with existing community work and OWS.
“We established ourselves as the Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, and have met every Tuesday night since Oct. 4,” said Tammy Kim, a workers' rights lawyer at the Community Development Project of Urban Justice Center. The idea, Kim said, was to connect workers' struggles to the corporate greed that OWS is protesting,
The new group, which Kim says is unique among other OWS groups for its multiracial composition and the involvement in it of longtime community activists, seeks to bring to the forefront devastating issues for immigrant communities such as wage theft and prison divestment. It also wants to make clear that no real movement for social justice can ignore those issues.
OWS Immigrant Worker Justice is focused on two main points: One is wage theft, that is, stolen wealth from low-wage workes which is a disgraceful epidemic in New York.
And two, the private prison corporations that profit from detention and deportation policies. They make lots of money — it is a billion-dollar business — by locking up poor, powerless immigrants for months and even years with little federal supervision.
One of these jails is located in Springfiled Gardens, Queens, and many voices have been raised in protest about it. It is one of many private immigration prisons around the country owned by the GEO Group, Inc. and it is a protest target of Families for Freedom. Public advocate advocate Bill de Blasio would like to see the federal governmeent break its ties with the GEO Group.
“Government should not do business with companies that violate basic human rights,” De Blasio has said.
At noon today there will be a teach-in at 61 Broadway with workers’ centers, immigrant rights groups, academics, and others to discuss the connection between corporate greed, the private prison industry and the deportation/detention of immigrants and immigrant workers.
The idea, organizers say, is for others to “learn from directly affected people.”
Then on Dec. 18, International Migrants Day, the OWS Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group will mark the occasion with a rally and march as well as a general assembly focusing on immigrant issues.
The march will start at 1:30 at Foley Square and, appropriately enough will end up in Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Similar events will take place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.
“It must be a two-way street: bring OWS to existing immigrant communities and campaigns; inject OWS with all the immigrant diversity and struggle in New York City,” Kim said.
aruiz [at] nydailynews [dot] com