Protest coalition heads to capital
Rally pushes for immigrant rights
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
April 10, 2006
On the eve of a national protest expected to be held today in Washington, a diverse group of Michiganders gathered Sunday night in front of a Detroit church to rally for immigrant rights.
Chanting "We are America," hundreds stood on the steps of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in southwest Detroit to protest legislation that would criminalize many in their communities. They listened to Latino, black, Arab-American, and Muslim leaders who voiced their support for immigrant rights.
"We're trying to be together, to make it happen," said Cristino Herrera, 29, a construction worker from Detroit at the rally. "We are not criminals ... we're paying taxes and raising families."
At the end of the protest, Herrera and about 100 other protesters boarded two buses headed for Washington, where thousands are expected to take part in a massive rally today at the nation's capital.
An anonymous flyer circulated at the rally, advocated that immigrants and others stay away from work or school today as part of a nationwide protest. None of the speakers at the rally, however, endorsed the call. Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), a coalition of faith-based groups in metro Detroit, organized the rally.
It was joined by a broad spectrum of groups: the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development , the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"Our basic core values are under assault," said Noel Saleh, chairman of the board of directors of ACCESS.
The demonstrators railed against a House bill passed in December that would criminalize the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and anyone who would support them -- including churches or social service groups. The U.S. Senate failed to reach a compromise Friday on a less-punitive version of the bill, and is to take up the issue again after it comes back from a current recess. "We're looking for good immigration reform," said Juan Escareno, an organizer for MOSES.
Escareno and other speakers preached unity.
Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of CAIR, said the attacks on immigrant rights are a "war on the civil liberties of all Americans."
Walid stood next to priests from Catholic churches in Detroit, who have actively fought anti-immigrant legislation.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Detroit Democrat, told the crowd she opposed the House bill that would criminalize giving support to undocumented immigrants. They cheered in response.
"My brothers and sisters, we are one people," she said.
Corey Hall, of the Detroit Branch NAACP, said:
"We're all in this together."