Freedom Folks

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Immigrant Justice Convention Held in Chicago

I attended this convention today, and have much, much more to say about specific topics in subsequent posts. I will get them out ASAP. Here, however, is the broad coverage:

Immigrants and their supporters gathered today at Chicago's Navy Pier. Organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), the convention brought together people from a melting pot of ethnicities and backgrounds to cheer on immigration reform, judiciously substitute the word "undocumented" for "illegal," and repeatedly call for "justice" for all immigrants.

After a number of speakers had made their way to and from podium, I lost track of how many times I was greeted and addressed in Spanish. One speaker was introduced as "a German-American with a Mexican spirit." (???) Another speaker opened with a "buenos tardes" to the cheering crowd, made several statements about making our country a better place, then closed with "Viva Mexico!" Rather confusing to the untrained, (American) flag-waving patriot, I must confess. Just who's country does he want to make a better place?

Groups of students were trotted out. Some stepped forward to speak, including a couple who passionately lamented the way they were being denied the right to succeed in this country because they and their parents are undocumented. Rep. Janet Schakowsky announced that Sen. Dick Durbin reintroduced his Dream Act yesterday to address students in limbo because of their and their parents' immigration status.

More victories and goals were mentioned by the steady stream of speakers, then they brought out Rosa & Jorge. This, of course, opened the door for the anti-Jim Oberweis, anti-Republican, anti-Minuteman rhetoric, which the audience ate up. Rosa and Jorge both spoke (en espanol), then the announcement was made that these two "undocumented" workers were out of work, and people came through the audience to take a collection for them.

Finally, the "big guns" were brought out to give impassioned speeches for the cause.

Luis Gutierrez, representative to the House from Illinois' 4th district (where I live), is one of the best orators I've ever heard. I'll give him that. Unfortunately, being a politician, his heart-felt ideas were liberally (pun intended) laced with comments like...

"Unlike my Republican colleagues who speak about family values, you ARE family values."


"There are more of us than those who want to stand up for Jim Oberweis."


"Many politicians talk a lot about their Christian values, but..."

Finally, Governor Rod Blagojevich took the podium to talk about the executive order he would sign at the end of the convention -- an immigrants initiative crating a council of immigrant leaders, a person/agency in the governor's office to help connect immigrants to services they need, and a team of policy advisors from different communities to address their unique struggles and problems.

The governor commented that...

"Only in America could the fifth largest state have a governor with a name like Blagojevich." (Much audience laughter and applause.) "Only in America could the largest state have a governor with a name like Schwarzenegger." (Loud booing from the audience.)

Blagojevich ended the conference by signing the executive order to the cheers of the crowd.

Justice for Immigrants vs. Justice for Citizens
Making Heroes of Rosa and Jorge
The Misplaced Blame of Illegal Students

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