A Brief Historical Narration of the Political Divisions in the Immigrant Rights Movement in Los Angeles since 2005 

By Javier Rodriguez             4 April 2012                from Tenosique Querido, Mexico  

The Historical Context

The  present piece has the explicit intention of addressing the issues of unity within in the immigrant rights sector in the City of the Angels. I believe that in order to understand the quandary of the present divisions and find the path to resolve them for the benefit of the people, it is imperative to look at our historical political and organizational experience and not just browse, but analyze thoroughly our triumphs and failures. In the 44 years of struggle to empower the huge immigrant population in contemporary America, unequivocally, Los Angeles is the bedrock of this social movement. It was born in 1968 in the midst of a social upheaval against the US government’s fabricated war on the people of Viet Nam. As well, it was also in the height of the African American and Chicano civil rights movements and the political assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, that the “Autonomous Center for Social Action  “C.A.S.A. MAPA” was founded. This was the pioneer organization of this movement and it was initiated and presided by the radical and visionary Humberto Bert Corona and a slew of labor and community organizers. The first offices were opened on Pico Blvd. now known as Pico Union District.  

The organization essentially set the foundations for this new social phenomena, which amazingly came about two years prior to what experts consider the beginning year 1970, of the restructuring of capitalism into its present form, globalization. Which in turn produced its counterpart, globalized undocumented immigration to the tune of 200 million, which William Robinson calls, “the new working class.”

In general, in the first stage, the most important accomplishment of this social movement, was the landmark approval of the IRCA Amnesty Reform Law of 1986 which legalized and empowered several million immigrants and their families, including almost two million farm workers. It took 18 years of sweat and intellectual and organizing labor, but the law that emanated from the legislative congressional chambers of the largest empire in history was not perfect. It also set the basis for employer sanctions and it egregiously left out about 2 ½ million “technically unqualified immigrants” out on the cold. So the fight immediately ensued over the human rights of the excluded immigrants and their families.  

And here we are 26 years later, and depending on who you listen to, we are either close or far from the goal of wresting from Congress a new comprehensive immigration reform that will not just legalize the 12 million undocumented and empower their families and children, but also overhaul the outdated and broken immigration system. And no different than 1968, today’s fight also has a context. Capitalist globalization has flowered and fully consolidated and there is also a general worldwide economic crisis of overwhelming proportions. The super rich are 1% of the world’s population and they have concentrated the vast amount of wealth in their hands. On the other side there is the 99% of the population, which is mired in growing poverty, no more middle class, to the point that one out two Americans, that is 150 million people, are poor or very close to it. And the rich want more and the class war is on.

Because I’m in “Mi querido Tenosique” in Mexico s southern border with Guatemala  and tomorrow begins a thirty kilometer walk for the “Viacrucis of the Immigrant,” Part 3 of this series on the history of divisions will continue and begin with 2005, the Minutemen and the Sensenbrenner Bill HR4437 and it probably will be finalized by Friday.  

Javier Rodriguez is a long time activist in LA’s social movement, particularly Latino politics, has been active in the field of immigrant rights since 1971, with 22 years as a rank and filer in labor, is also an independent journalist, a media and political strategist, and today is presently active with the Dec 12 Coalition and Occupy LA.