Valentine’s Day action for immigrants’ rights

On Feb. 14, some 1,500 immigrants and supporters rallied at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall to protest HR 4437, a harsh anti-immigrant bill passed by the House of Representatives last Dec. 16 and due to be considered by the Senate in March. (News Journal, Wilmington, DE, Feb. 15) The Philadelphia Spanish-language weekly newspaper El Dia described the rally as the largest immigrant rights mobilization in the city’s history. The action was part of “A Day Without an Immigrant,” a regional Valentine’s Day labor strike by immigrant workers.

Many protesters came from the Philadelphia area while hundreds more arrived in buses from Wilmington, Delaware and from the Pennsylvania cities of Reading, Allentown and Lancaster, and still others came in vans from Trenton, Camden, Bridgeton, Vineland and Hammonton in neighboring New Jersey. A number of businesses in the region were closed—some with signs announcing their solidarity with the strike—and many business owners even attended the rally. (El Dia, Feb. 19) About six members of the rightwing anti-immigrant group Minutemen held a counter-demonstration across the street, in front of the Liberty Bell.

Valentine’s Day is the second-most-popular day of the year (after Mother’s Day) for dining out, and immigrant advocates hoped the protest would convince restaurant owners and other employers who hire immigrants to play an active role in opposing HR 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said in a statement on Feb. 14 that the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, was preparing a compromise bill that would reach the full Senate by the end of March. (Philadelphia Inquirer, News Journal, Feb. 15)

Between 600 and 1,600 immigrants rallied in Georgetown, in southern Delaware, as part of the same Valentine’s Day action against HR 4437. Many immigrant workers in the area–a major center for poultry processing–apparently observed the strike. About two-thirds of the workers at Perdue Farm’s processing plant in Georgetown did not report to work on Feb. 14, said Julie DeYoung, vice president of corporate communications. Company officials planned for the possible shortage of workers, she said, and arranged for other employees to help keep operations running. Perdue Farms has spoken out against HB 4437. “We already oppose that bill,” said DeYoung. “We agree on this.” (News Journal, Feb. 15)

In New York City on Feb. 14, nearly 100 demonstrators brought Valentine’s Day messages to the offices of New York’s Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, asking them to oppose HR 4437 and support legalization for immigrants. The protest was organized by the Immigration Communities in Action coalition. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY; Hoy, NY, Feb. 15)

From Immigration News Briefs, Feb. 18

See our last post on immigrant’s rights, and the Congressional backlash.