Almost 1,000 people marched and rallied on May Day in Los Angeles — but not only for the traditional rights of workers.
This year, with a Senate-passed bill stalled in the House of Representatives, an eclectic collection of groups also demonstrated loudly May 1 for immigration reform and stopping the deportation of undocumented immigrants. (Two smaller marches were held in a record-breaking hot downtown during the day.)
In fact, the moving sea of main marchers — awash in purple, yellow, black, red and white T-shirts from the Teamsters, hotel workers, musicians and nurses to CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), Esperanza Immigrants’ Rights Projects and LA Street Vendors Campaign — wound up at the Federal Metropolitan Detention Center, where undocumented immigrants are held, often before being deported.
“Over 50,000 workers in Los Angeles are living in poverty because they’re not earning a living wage. And they are suffering deportation as well as not earning a living wage,” declared Angelica Salas, CHIRLA’s executive director, at the closing rally from a flatbed truck.
“Today we tell you we will not give up. We’re going to march in the streets. We’re going to march to the polls. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that this country recognizes our labor, recognizes our humanity and keeps our families together.”
Maria Elena Durazo, executive-secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, introduced a “hard-working” undocumented young man named Ramon who she claimed ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had targeted, instead of the supervisor who hired him and stole from his wages.
“We’re not going to tolerate it. We’re fighting back,” Durazo shouted. “We are here as a labor movement unified in support of legalization and stopping the deportations now.”
The march began at 11:45 a.m. at Cesar Chavez Avenue on Broadway, under Chinatown’s gateway double golden dragons. Latin music with a steady conga beat came from an eight-piece Latino group on another flatbed truck. Men, women, teenagers and children held up placards saying “Not 1 More Deportation,” “The Worker’s Struggle Has No Boundaries,” “Justice-Dignity — #May Day 4 All” and “We Support Citizenship, Stop Deportations — LA Unions.” A huge U.S. flag was supported on four sides by hard-hat laborers and immigration rights activists.
The marchers turned left on Aliso Street, skirting the 101 Freeway, and wound up beside the federal detention center.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has been a torchbearer for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress for years, reminded the sunbaked crowd that President Obama had stopped the deportation of “Dreamers,” unauthorized youths brought to the U.S. as children. “Now it’s time for the President to understand he can free their moms and dads, and stop their deportation, too. So let’s be fair,” he said to shouts and applause.
“One way or another, I’m coming back in the fall,” promised the congressman. “We’re going to fill out papers so the people can be ready to get legalized. And we’re going to send those papers [back to Washington] so the people can stop from being deported and be protected. One way or another, we’re moving this movement forward.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo pointed out how it was the people’s marching, signing petitions and lobbying that “moves us closer to the justice we deserve.” The former California assemblyman and senator cited the passage in 2013 of the law allowing illegal immigrants in the state to apply for driver’s licenses and the 2011 California Dream Act permitting many undocumented students to apply for student aid benefits as landmark examples of progress.
“The Los Angeles City Council is proud to stand with you,” he said, stressing, “The state of California continues to raise her voice as we care about the people who live in our community. We don’t care about their immigration status. We only care about how they live here: Do they comply with the law? Do they work hard? Do they share our family values? Are they faithful people? Those are all the things that we care about.”
Cedillo also publicly asked President Obama to stop the deportations immediately. And he urged the marchers, “Don’t stop working. Don’t stop fighting. Don’t stop organizing.”