Hope amid setbacks

Migrant workers' rights
By NEELY STEINBERG  |  January 3, 2008

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DOROTEA MANUELA: (center) condemned the UN and urged migrant workers to fight for what few rights they have.

On December 8, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out another Massachusetts immigration raid — this time in Milford — resulting in the arrest and detainment of 15 undocumented workers. That was just 10 days before International Migrants Day, the December 18th date so designated in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly.

International Migrants Day was thus celebrated in somewhat of a bittersweet, even tainted, manner in Boston this year when it was convened with a panel discussion at Chinatown progressive nexus Encuentro 5.

Cluttered with the typical lares and penates of a space devoted to social activism — anti-war signs, anti-capitalism pamphlets, AFL-CIO posters, and the like — Encuentro 5 was the perfect milieu for the event, which was attended by about 30 people. Despite the frustrations surrounding the recent sting, panelists remained optimistic and engaged in hearty discussion on a variety of issues facing migrant workers today. Patricia Montes, a coordinator of community organizers with Centro Presente, the Cambridge-based nonprofit that helps immigrants apply for citizenship, stressed the need for community organization and coalition-building among immigrants, not only to address issues within the US but to rally against the “horrendous” immigration policies of their own countries of origin.

“In the case of Mexico, how can the Mexican government demand a just immigration policy here, when they apply horribly oppressive immigration policies in relation to immigrants coming from Central America?” Montes asked.

The final speaker of the night was also the most spirited. In a flash of bravado, Dorotea Manuela, a representative from the Boston May Day Coalition, called on the people to organize and to fight. “I think the UN convention for migrant workers is very flawed and offers little protection, but the little protection it offers, I say fight, fight, we have to fight for it,” she said emphatically, banging her fists on the table. “The UN is as full of shit as any other politician that has come this way. But there is hope — power to the people!”

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