Thursday, June 05, 2008

Immigrants speak out against Racism and Xenophobia.

PAWTUCKET — Racism and xenophobia are contributing to a Rhode Island social climate in which immigrants are regarded as the villains, speakers at a pro-immigration rally said yesterday.

We build walls for people who have to leave their country for economic reasons,” said Gladys Gould of the Providence Presbyterian Church, one of a number of organizations that took part in “Unite for Fairness,” held at the Pawtucket Visitors Center. “You don’t see them going after the Irish. The difference is, the police will stop us because of the way we look. It is all about race,” said Gould, a native of the Dominican Republic.

About 90 persons attended the rally.

Gould said, “This is a nation of immigrants. It’s part of our history. But immigration trends have changed in the last hundred years. The global economy, driven by U.S.-based corporations and free trade agreements like NAFTA, has created a new reality in immigrants’ countries of origin. These agreements have hurt workers on either side of the border and have created conditions of poverty and urgency for people to migrate.

“I think it is time we talked about what is the Rhode Island we want to be in and live in,” said Ellen Gallagher of the International Institute, in Providence. “We think it’s a Rhode Island that values communities and all Rhode Islanders, including immigrants.”

Gallagher said that many immigrants do not understand that if their spouse is a U.S. citizen, they might be able to acquire legal status or citizenship for themselves. “Unfortunately,” she said, “due to serious backlogs in processing immigration and citizenship applications, many people seeking legal status have been unable to achieve this goal.

Patrick Crowley, of the Rhode Island National Education Association, said, “The real problems in Rhode Island are about job creation, not immigration.

He said immigrants in the Ocean State pay taxes, invest in real estate and contribute to the state’s economy.

And yet there are unscrupulous employers who use people’s immigration status as a means to exploit workers and abandon wage and hour laws. For a strong Rhode Island, we need to enforce our state’s wage and hour law, not take federal immigration law into our own hands.”

Ivette Luna, of Ocean State Action, said Rhode Island “is filled with fear and anti-immigrant ideas.” She said “statements of hate” are frequently expressed on talk radio shows.

The people on the hill,” she said, referring to the state government, “are feeding into anti-immigrant statements. The key is education. We need the true facts. It’s all about human. We all are people. We are all immigrants. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

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