The 12-city tour the Minuteman Project began this week to build support for tighter border security, including stops in predominantly Black neighborhoods, suggests that now is the time to build an alliance between Hispanics and Blacks, says a University of California-Davis professor.
The Minuteman Project, which has garnered national attention by staking out day laborer sites, is attempting to capitalize on the disenfranchised segments of the African- American and Hispanic communities, says Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, associate dean for academic affairs and Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies at UC-Davis.
“There has to be an alliance. Both Latino and Black activists have to work together,” he says. “I don’t see it happening in Los Angeles. But in Chicago it is there.”
At one stop, in Los Angeles, reaction among Blacks was mixed.
“If we are going to be giving preference to anybody … preference should go to the American-African community that has suffered more than anybody,” Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist told a crowd of 40 supporters that included about 10 Blacks.
But the event soon provoked screaming matches about whether illegal immigrants were taking jobs from Blacks or should be embraced as fellow minorities looking for a better life. Gilchrist had to yell over a dozen mostly Black protesters who chanted “Minutemen go home!” and “KKK go home!”
Gilchrist repeatedly stopped his speech to address the protesters, telling them: “Ours is not a racial cause. It’s a rule-of-law cause.”
“Hispanics are taking away our jobs,” said Angela Broussard, 38, a Black playwright. “They are moving into our neighborhoods, so now where are we going to go?”
Morris Griffin held a sign criticizing a measure passed by the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be in this country illegally and penalize people who aid undocumented immigrants.
“Don’t pit the Blacks against the Browns, like they do in the jails and schools,” Griffin told Broussard.
The Minuteman Project is “a small, White middle-class movement and not hugely successful,” says Johnson. “Although there is a momentum building, they are still a side show compared to the thousands of immigrants protesting on the streets.”
He adds that Blacks would be better off without joining their cause. “[Rev.] Jesse Jackson has it right — would Black folk be better off without illegal immigrants? No. Because there are still poorly funded schools, too many men in prisons and other problems within the community,” he says.
According to the Minutemen Web site, the caravan is scheduled to stop in President Bush’s vacation haven of Crawford, Texas, as well as Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M.; Abilene, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Greensboro, N.C.; and Richmond, Va., before arriving in Washington, D.C.
— Diverse Staff and news wire reports
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