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Three Thousand March Through Downtown Chicago for Immigrant Rights
Jun. 30, 2002
Hazardous heat conditions threatened Chicago as 3,000 members of ACORN and their allies, including SEIU Local 880, marched through city streets to demand rights for immigrants and a living wage for home care workers on July 1. The protest march concluded ACORN's national convention, which is held every two years in a different city.
ACORN members and supporters gathered in Federal Plaza, took to the streets and marched through Chicago's busy government and business district to the State of Illinois building. Upon arrival, ACORN, SEIU and several organizations from various ethnic communities held a rally with several speakers including Illinois State Senator Miguel Del Valle. During the rally, a contingent of members of SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) Local 880 and ACORN entered the state government building and visited the offices of the Department of Aging, the Department of Human Services, and the Governor. These members confronted officials about the hard-earned $1 per hour wage increase promised to home health care workers that was recently cut from the state budget.
ACORN, SEIU and supporters then filled the streets and marched south toward Federal Plaza. Chants of "The People United/Will Never be Defeated" greeted Chicago lunch crowds as a delegation was sent into the Social Security Administration to demand that it stop sending "no match" letters to employers. While much of the crowd returned to rally at Federal Plaza, another contingent of over one hundred members headed to the INS to strengthen the protest for immigrant rights. A final delegation traveled to Gingiss Formal Wear, a tuxedo rental franchise, and filled the store with chanting protesters. The Gingiss company had recently replaced a long-term employee after receiving a "no match" letter from the Social Security Administration, and then offered her lower pay rate. ACORN demanded that Gingiss pay the employee her original wage and compensate her for lost pay.
ACORN members and allies from Chicago, and about 2,000 ACORN members from all over the country, marched together to send a powerful message against injustice to government agencies and businesses. Immigrants from a diverse array of ethnic communities marched with African-American, white, and other native-born Americans, who demonstrated their support for immigrants' rights as a matter of pressing importance to all low- and moderate-income workers.
Immediate outcomes of the national march include a promise from the president of Gingiss Formalwear to meet with Chicago ACORN representatives to negotiate our member's employment terms. ACORN is also much closer to arranging a meeting with the commissioner of the Social Security Administration to discuss a moratorium on no-match letters.
ACORN's National Demands for Immigrant Rights
The United States is currently facing an economic crisis and constant threats of terrorism. Because of such circumstances, ACORN, along with other community-based, labor and religious organizations, understands the federal government's important role in restoring a stable economy and a secure nation. To do so, policies must be put in place to reward workers who keep our economy going, and avoid layoffs of immigrant workers that will further send our economy into a downward trend. The government also must work to legalize its residents so that people living within its borders can be properly identified in the effort to create a safer, more secure nation.
1. Legalization (General Amnesty)
ACORN demands that Congress enact legislation to grant permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.
2. Stop "No-Match" Letters
ACORN demands that the Social Security Administration stop issuing "no match" letters to employers. When the SSA sends employers letters to inform them that employees' social security numbers do not match the SSA records, the employees are being fired or mistreated. The SSA sent out 750,000 of these letters last year, up from 100,000 in previous years.
3. No More Threats to Employers
ACORN demands a stop to the Internal Revenue Service letters sent to employers threatening to issue a fine for each undocumented employee. When the IRS threatens to penalize employers for every undocumented worker, families are put at risk.
4. Access to Higher Education
ACORN demands the Student Adjustment Act be passed, allowing long-term resident undocumented students to qualify for legal status and therefore access to college. Although most undocumented high school students have lived in the United States since they were infants, many do not have access to college, either because they are denied enrollment or financial aid, or are forced to pay out of state tuition.
5. Restoration of Benefits
Immigrant families must be given equal access to the government programs they help to fund through their taxes, including TANF, CHIP, and food stamps.
In addition, every state in the United States must allow immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, so that they can commute to their jobs, obtain car insurance, and be identified. ACORN is working in a number of states to promote this policy.
During the past two years, ACORN members have won many victories, including:
* New Orleans ACORN and SEIU Local 100, after a six-year campaign, won the first-ever citywide minimum-wage increase with a public ballot initiative.
* ACORN won regulations targeting predatory lending in Massachusetts, and passed laws against predatory lending in Philadelphia, Oakland, and at the state level in California.
* ACORN blocked an attempt by a for-profit company to take over public schools in New York City, and dramatically reduced a proposal from the same company to take over schools in Philadelphia.
* Los Angeles ACORN moved the City to create a $100 million housing trust fund.
* Chicago ACORN won from the City and from a gas company a well-funded utility bill payment assistance program, a moratorium on shutoffs, approval of more people for LIHEAP assistance, and a pilot program for bills based on income.
* St. Louis ACORN passed a ballot initiative to create a use tax to generate $6-9 million per year to be split evenly between an affordable housing trust fund and indigent health care.
* Denver ACORN worked with the mayor to persuade the City Council to make Denver the first city in the nation to offer a municipal earned income tax credit to low-income families.
Chicago ACORN, the host chapter for this convention, is entering its 20th year with 9,000 families as members, and successes under its belt in campaigns focused on living wage, predatory lending, utilities, improving public schools, and making funds available for home repair.
Photos of these events and other actions taken during ACORN's national convention are available for free reproduction at ACORN Photo Gallery. Please give credit to ACORN.
Contact David Swanson at ACORN at acornnews(at)acorn.org or 202-547-2500.