Banding Together for Immigrant Rights

An alliance is emerging between immigrants and African Americans

| July 12, 2007

On June 23 megaphones were a-blazin' as anti-immigration protesters and counter-protesters sounded off against each other in Los Angeles. San FranciscoBayView's Leslie Radford reports that at the march, which was organized by the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group called Choose Black America urged African Americans to come to their side of the picket line. 'Don't be fooled by the black-brown coalitions,' one announcement intoned. As Radford reports, the divide-and-conquer entreaty was lost on the alliance of blacks, Latinos, and whites who showed up in support of immigrant rights.
Though stories abound of whites and blacks coming together to combat illegal immigration, positive counter-alliances are emerging between Latinos and African Americans. 'The media love to show images of a few African Americans demonstrating together with right-wing groups,' writes Gerald Lenoir in an opinion piece for New America Media. His Berkeley-based organization, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), offers a different storyline. Standing up to racism, writes Lenoir, who is a coordinator for BAJI, means fighting it in all its forms. And that means building a joint movement for immigrant rights and civil rights.

To that end, Lenoir and BAJI members, along with representatives from other immigrant-rights organizations, recently toured the US-Mexican border, reports Latino Perspectives Magazine. After witnessing what he calls 'a war zone' at the border, Lenoir told the magazine that BAJI will compile a report for the United Nations on migrant rights in the United States.?

Though the alliance may seem natural to some, polls show that African Americans have mixed feelings toward immigration. A Pew Charitable Trusts poll from April 2006, referenced by Lenoir, suggests that most African Americans view immigrants as 'hard-working' (79 percent) and as 'hav[ing] strong family values' (77 percent). The poll also shows, however, that African Americans are more likely than whites to believe that 'immigrants take jobs away from American citizens.' ?

In spite of such views, Lenoir argues that the economic fates of African Americans and immigrants are inextricably linked. He cites the work of economist Steven Pitts of the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, who ?notes that studies indicate that legalizing undocumented workers would benefit both immigrants and citizens by raising wages and improving working conditions.

Until that happens, BAJI hopes that by engaging African Americans and Latinos in dialogue and emphasizing common interests, both groups can unite on the same side of the picket line. After all, Lenoir says, their civil, economic, or human rights struggles won't be won without allies.

Go there >>Black and Brown Unite to Stop the Minutemen

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