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NY Immigrants Rally for Reforms and a Halt to "Unjust" Deportations

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May 2, 2011

NEW YORK - New York immigrants and their allies held May Day Rallies Sunday to show they are not backing down in their demands for a path to legal citizenship. They also called attention to the significant increase in immigrant deportations, now almost 400,000 per year, under the Obama administration.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric and even laws in some states are on the rise, according to Bahir Mustafa with the New York Civic Participation Project, but he sees hope in recent immigration reform meetings that President Obama has had with strong advocates of serious reform, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mustafa says he and his fellow immigrants are not about to give up the fight.

"We cannot have immigration reform without a path to citizenship, and we're following the path of the Martin Luther Kings and the Malcolm X's and the Rosa Parkses, who struggled for equality."

Opponents of immigration reform say a path to citizenship could reward people who broke the law to get into this country.

May Day is traditionally a day dedicated to workers' rights. Immigrant groups joined with labor over the weekend in calling for worker protections, which Mustafa says are under siege in such states as Wisconsin.

Immigration reform marches and rallies were also held on Long Island over the weekend. Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, director of Long Island Wins, says one big concern is a two-year rise in the number of immigrants being deported for minor offenses.

"Deportations have been much higher than during the Bush administration. Obama has deported nearly 400,000 immigrants each year, and he can make certain changes with an executive order, with the stroke of a pen."

At the state level, Mustafa says immigrants want New York State to get out of the Homeland Security program known as "Secure Communities." He says the program fails to go after career criminals, and instead leaves local immigrants afraid to report crimes, over concerns they may end up being deported.

"That will not only cause a problem for the immigrant community, but it's a problem for New York State as a whole, because when law enforcement is looking to solve a crime, they are going to solve a crime based on the assistance of the community."

Next month a coalition of immigrants' groups will send President Obama 10,000 pens to drive home their call for him to sign an executive order halting unjust deportations.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY