Search This Blog

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Register Now!
Right to the City Congress and
Direct Action in Boston
September 29th - October 1st, 2011  

*Registration is due August 24th, 2011 at 5PM EST.
Click to Register Now.
"The right to the city is not merely a right of access to what already exists, but a right to change it after our heart's desire. We need to be sure we can live with our own creations (a problem for every planner, architect and utopian thinker). But the right to remake ourselves by creating a qualitatively different kind of urban sociality is one of the most precious of all human rights."
-David Harvey 
Calling all Right to the City
Members, Supporters and Allies:
Throw Down Big Time for Boston!

Get ready to throw down big time for a large scale direct action in Boston that will make bank bosses lose some sleep and get people back in their homes!

RTTC members will help to build the Boston Right to the City region and support the work that is already happening on the ground.

Click to Register Now.
Right to the City Congress 2011

Come together to:   
  • Share new models of building 21st Century Cities that are democratic, just, and sustainable.
  • Participate in political education sessions, workshops, and trainings. 
Don't miss out on the action, the conversation, the friendships and the fun!  We are inviting Right to the City supporters and allies to attend.

Click to  Register Now.  
Right to the City anchors
Details and Online Registration

September 29th - October 1st.
There will be three full days:

Day 1 - September 29th - Right to the City Member Congress (RTTC members only)

Day 2 - September 30th - Open to ALL - All day.

Day 3 - October 1st - Open to ALL - All day.

Days 2 and 3 will include direct, fun actions on banks and getting people back in their homes along with political trainings and model sharing.

Fill out the  online registration here.
Registration is due August 24th, 2011 at 5:00PM EST.

For more information on these events contact

Click to Register Now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Greed Gone Wild--A Remedy is At Hand

Mr. City Hall married Ms. Filthy B. Rich Corporations at San Francisco City Hall on tax day, April 18, 2011. This marriage was opposed by RTTC Bay Area.  Wedding attendants performed the Tax the Rich shuffle led by Causa Justa Just Cause and People Organized to Win Employment Rights.

by Bill Fletcher, Jr and Alicia Garza

An epidemic of corporate greed is spreading uncontrollably across the United States, wreaking havoc on millions of working families, eliminating jobs and taking homes.  The only cure is for local, state and federal governments to deliver the antidote, commonly known as "Pay Your Fair Share."

Corporations are not paying their fair share in taxes, while millions of working families fall farther down the prosperity ladder.  Local, state, and federal governments slash services and eliminate jobs, and at the same time, are giving tax breaks and other subsidies to Big Business.  Taxing corporations will generate the revenue we need to stop the cuts and create living wage jobs with benefits for millions of unemployed workers.  That is why hundreds of people across the country did the Tax the Rich shuffle on April 18 to demonstrate that taxing those who make the most ensures that everyone has the right to thrive.

RTTC Tax the Rich Shuffle Video in Seven Cities

General Electric, the nation's largest corporation, despite billions in profits did not pay taxes.  Carnival Cruise Lines is another corporation that does not pay its fair share.  They raked in over $11.2 billion in profits since 2006, yet paid only 1.1% in taxes.  Carnival’s low-wage workers pay a higher tax rate than this, as do most people in this country.  Meanwhile, Carnival's CEO Mickey Arison is doing quite well with his net worth of $6.1 billion, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.

RTTC member groups, PowerU and Miami Worker Center doing the tax the rich shuffle in front of Carnival Cruises.

After we bailed out Bank of America to the tune of $100 billion, they made over $4 billion in profit in 2010, and even received a $1.9 billion tax refund.   Two-thirds of all US corporations and 68% of foreign businesses do not pay ANY federal income taxes.  At the same time, corporate profits reached an all-time high in 2010 with an annualized $1.68 trillion in pre-tax operating profits.

Right to the City DC Metro Area member group, Tenants and Workers United in front of Bank of America in Arlington, VA.

The Right to the City Alliance (RTTC), a national alliance of grassroots organizations based in low income communities has the antidote.  The wisdom of our tens of thousands of unemployed and underemployed members has led to a simple yet ingenious solution to stop the spread of corporate greed:  Make wealthy corporations and individuals pay their fair share!

Three simple taxes will create $778.50 billion dollars annually which will stop budget cuts and put millions of people to work by creating millions of living wage jobs that will strengthen our schools and communities.  First, close all corporate tax loopholes so Carnival Cruise Lines, Bank of America, and other major corporations pay their fair share, generating more than $400 billion over the next 10 years. Second, place a very small tax on the trading of financial products (0.25% or $1 on every $400 dollars of trading) – stocks, bonds, currencies and derivatives based on these products – that would raise at least $500 billion annually.  Finally, generate another $338.5 billion each year through a 1% wealth tax on the top five percent of households in the United States.  With this revenue, we can hire teachers, caregivers for our seniors, childcare workers, firefighters and others so desperately needed in our communities.

Right to the City LA member groups led by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy  and Union de Vecinos in front of Citigroup in Downtown LA.

Actually, NOT increasing taxes on wealthy corporations will cost us jobs.  While avoiding paying taxes, most major corporations are laying off workers and making existing workers work longer and harder for the same pay, increasing their profits and stock value.  They are sitting on about $1.9 trillion in cash reserves which they are not using to hire more workers.  We do not need to worry that they will pack up and leave because they make their money off of our communities.

Right to the City NYC, led by member groups Community Voices Heard and Mothers On the Move in front of the NYC main post office.

The antidote is at hand.  Now it is up to the government to stop protecting Big Business and start looking out for everyday people like us.  RTTC’s three simple taxes will allow the government to balance the budget and create millions of living wage jobs with benefits each year.  This will put people back to work and strengthen our schools and communities.  Big Business, it's time you pay your fair share.

Bill Fletcher, Jr, Editorial Board and Visiting Scholar with CUNY Graduate Center

Alicia Garza, Chairperson of the Right to the City National Alliance (RTTC) Steering Committee.  RTTC is a national alliance of 40 grassroots community groups working for human rights and democracy.,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Major Protest At Capitol - Grassroots Groups Demand Cuomo Reject Tax Cuts for Millionaires

Photo credit: Paul Buckowski / Times Union

March 2, 2011

Grassroots community leaders from Right to the City, including CAAAV, Community Voices Heard, FUREE, Picture the Homeless, Queers for Economic Justice, and VOCAL-NY held a major protest at the state capitol yesterday. The protest further defined the choice facing Governor Cuomo between tax cuts for millionaires and investing in healthcare, education, safety net programs and other public services ordinary New Yorkers rely on.  About 150 low-income New Yorkers from the five boroughs, Westchester, Newburgh, Poughkieepsie, and Albany rallied while 17 were arrested for blocking entrances on the south side the capitol. Protesters held banners saying "Gov. Cuomo:  People Before Wall Street, No Tax Breaks for Millionaires" and "Cuomo Inc: Fighting for Wall Street Bankers & Landlords."

AP excerpt: "Protest organizer Wanda Hernandez, a board member from the activist group VOCAL New York, said the group opposes cutting social programs and closing hospitals and schools while letting an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers expire after this year. Gloria Wilson, a demonstrator from Community Voices Heard, said protesters want Cuomo to stand strong and resist special interests."

Videos from the action online at

The protest was widely covered in the media, including links below. (The NY1 and Fox23 segments under TV/Video are among the better pieces.)

Albany Times Union (w/ photo slideshow):
Buffalo News:
AP/Wall Street Journal:
AP Photo:

TV / Video:
WNYT 12:

NPR: --
North Country Radio:

Daily News / Daily Politis:
Politics on the Hudson:
Capitol Confidential: and
WNYC/The Empire:
Gotham Gazette/The Wonkster:

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Right To The City Alliance: Year 2010 at a Glance

By Anita Sinha
2010 was a year that reinforced the need for powerful collective action. The jobs and housing crises carried over and continued to pulse through low-income communities across the country.  The world started the year with the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and a few months later the Gulf Coast was dealt another challenge of immeasurable proportions with the BP oil rig explosion.  That same month, in April, Arizona detonated an explosion of a different kind. The Arizona legislature’s enactment of SB 1070instigated fierce pro-immigrant organizing, lawsuits that stalled the application of the Arizona law, and copycat legislation for consideration in at least a dozen states.

The U.S. Social Forum in June provided a dynamic space for social justice activists to convene, while the Tea Party gained momentum by launching its own mobilizations and, ultimately, electoral candidates.  A string of queer youth suicides sparked the moving It Gets Better project.  Mid-term elections flipped the House and many state legislatures and governorships to Republicans, and days later, people took to the streets after the stunning verdict in the Oscar Grant shooting.  The prospect of progressive climate change legislation waned, while advocates from around the world convened in Cancun to demand and develop real solutions to the climate crisis.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Development’s (HUD) proposal to dismantle the public housing system became a bill, and a poised housing justice community began mobilizing to respond.

Closing out the year, the lame duck Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, renewed the Bush tax cuts, and sent to the President’s desk the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The release of data from the 2010 Census unveiled major ramifications for states and political parties, while Wikileaks published secret and classified information that stunned the world and sparked a debate about transparency and democracy.

Throughout this year, the Right to the City Alliance mobilized for both proactive and responsive action.

Housing and Jobs
RTTC member groups joined forces knowing that the majority of the damage done by the jobs and housing crises is falling on the backs of their low-income, predominately of color, communities. The Housing and Urban Development Workgroup met several times with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and held a Congressional briefing on its groundbreaking report, We Call These Projects Home, detailing the impact of public housing policies on low-income residents and communities.

The New York City region released a powerful report, People Without Homes & Homes Without People, which calls for the conversion of vacant condos into affordable low-income housing, and held a walking tour of vacant condos.  Los Angeles issued a sharp report card urging the enactment of stricter policies and community-based solutions to improve the housing and living conditions for over 1 million tenants in the city.

RTTC launched a Ready to Work jobs campaign to demand targeted hiring and training for hardest-hit communities, engaging over 800 unemployed workers in 2010. The Alliance also joined forces with Jobs With Justice’s national day of action to declare a jobs emergency.

Civic Engagement
The Civic Engagement Workgroup is an example of how RTTC seized the opportunities of 2010.  RTTC members of the Civic Engagement Workgroup launched a nationally coordinated Yes We Count Census outreach project.  The outreach work of RTTC community-based groups had a significant impact on increasing the participation of traditionally “hard to count” groups in the Census. The project led to new relationships between community members and organizations, strengthened alliances and, in some cases, led to new participation on critical local issues such as foreclosures and jobs.

Next year, the Workgroup will launch the Engaged Voter Organizing (EVO) Training for Trainers, with the goal of training more than 500 leaders. The EVO trainings are created with the acknowledgement that U.S. cities are becoming majority people of color, majority women, and are the locations where new immigrants and LGBTQ people are concentrated.  The EVO training will equip member-leaders and organizers with historic, strategic, and practical information to run a field outreach campaign,  Trainings also will  build a new layer of leadership to create  power and a voice for our communities to determine how our cities are run.  Additionally, in key geographic areas,  Civic Engagement Workgroup members  will educate and advocate for fair and equitable representation in the 2011 redistricting process.

Supporting Arizona & Opposing the Criminalization of Immigrants

Through its support of the grassroots movement in Arizona, RTTC also showed its commitment to backing on-the-ground mobilization in the face of a social and racial justice emergency. The Alliance supported the Alto Arizona campaign by sending a grassroots delegation of more than 80 people to participate in a national mobilization after the passage of SB 1070.  RTTC also dispatched experienced staff to provide on-the-ground organizing, strategy, and fundraising support.

In the fall, RTTC members participated in a Turning the Tide on Immigration summit in New Orleans to address the increased criminalization of immigrants. At this summit, RTTC hosted a strategy session on multi-racial unity, and created a concept paper on how to support a broader campaign that builds connections and coordination between the immigrant rights community and the racial and criminal justice communities.

Ecological Justice
The Ecological Justice Workgroup kicked off ecological justice trainings, called “Eco-Schools” in New York City and Virginia, as the first phase of our ongoing political education series of RTTC mobile schools.  The Eco-schools represent mini-versions of the Movement Generation trainings, Freedom Fighting While Defending the Earth, that advance the development of a deeper ecological justice lens in racial justice organizations.

RTTC members joined a delegation, headed by Grassroots Global Justice, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun. Inside the convention, several accords were passed that fell woefully short of addressing long-term climate change needs.  However, outside the convention, a movement for real change to address the climate crisis assembled in strong form. Vibrant marches of thousands of small farmers, indigenous peoples, and community activists from around the world streamed through Cancun’s streets, while about 30 demonstrations showed their solidarity across the U.S. and Canada.

Getting Stronger from the Inside

Amidst RTTC’s great external work, the Alliance also was committed to strengthening its structure and internal operations.  RTTC completed an organizational development process, identifying priorities and creating an alliance-wide, national campaign.  RTTC gave thanks and appreciation to the hard work of outgoing Steering Committee members: Denise Perry, Dawn Phillips, and Rickke Mananzala.  At the U.S. Social Forum, the membership elected a new Steering Committee, consisting of: Anita Sinha, Advancement Project; Jon Liss, Tenants and Workers United/Virginia New Majority; Kalila Barnett, Alternatives for Community and Environment; Alicia Garza, POWER; Mark Swier, Mothers On The Move; Eileen Ma, Korean Immigrant Workers Association; Yvette Thierry, Safe Streets Strong Communities; Gihan Perera, Miami Worker Center/Florida New Majority; and Leonardo Vilchis, Union De Vecinos.

The RTTC national staff went through some changes this year, and has come out strong. The Alliance was very fortunate to hire an experienced and dynamic organizer, Rachel LaForest, as its new Director of Organizing, while it said farewell to its dedicated Lead Organizer, Marisa Franco.  Lisette Le joined RTTC as the new Regional Organizer for Boston.  Avi Rosenthalis came on board as the New York City Regional Coordinator and we said goodbye to New York City Organizer Shannon Barber.  RTTC bade a fond farewell to Carl Lipscombe, and welcomed Mark Swier as the new Operations Coordinator.  Claire Tran remains as our now-veteran RTTC staffer, leading the way as National Organizer for Civic Engagement.

Happy New Year to RTTC and its allies and supporters. Onward!

Anita Sinha serves on RTTC's Executive Committee as Archivist, and is a Senior Attorney at Advancement Project.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Radical Democracy, Voter Organizing and the Right to the City!

Leonardo Vilichis and Jon Liss talk strategy at an exchange in Maywood, CA.
By Jon Liss

To win the Right to the City, we have no choice but to contest and win elections in the cities and regions where new working class organizations are based.  Cities are majority people of color, majority women, and are where new immigrants and LGBTQ people are concentrated.  There is no other way and there is no other choice.  Yes, building leadership and running campaigns is important as we develop the capacity to run urban areas by and for the people. There are many strategic and tactical decisions that need to be discussed, tried, evaluated and tried again.  Yet no matter what, we
still need to win elections - period.

We need a movement in the scale of tens of thousands to millions

There is no better time to carry out massive outreach than elections.  In an active election cycle, 10,000 to 200,000 households are visited.  Each visit is an opportunity to present ideas, engage in struggle, and to listen and learn.  Each election gives us the opportunity to grow our organizations by thousands of members.  If our ideas don’t carry us on the doors, that probably says something about the quality of our ideas!  To win power - whether through elections or direct action - we need tens of thousands of supporters.  Participating in elections in part is a process that allows us to build power by growing the scale of our work.

We need to build power blocs that unite a multitude of sectors

To build electoral power we need to also build voting blocs that are outside of the narrow geographic space and the limited population demographic where most new working class organizations focus our energies.  No matter how well organized, a handful of neighborhoods are not enough to win power in cities and urban regions.  To contend for power, we must have a much deeper analysis of which groups of people we want to organize and build power with, and why we want to build power with them.  In most cities, this means actively developing programs that build unity between immigrants and African Americans, working class people of color and gay and lesbian urbanites, unionists and more.  The Democratic Party, in most cities, has been doing this for years.  They do this without a responsive urban political program, without a deep leadership development program and without a very active base.  Surely we can do better.  Building alliances are critical components of winning the Right to the City, and elections are a very concrete expression of the state of the alliances that we are building. 

We need our own candidates that are grown from the grassroots

In our current state of organizing, most of us doing voter work are not developing our own candidates or platforms.  This must change.  While we can debate whether or not to participate in the Democratic Party or as an independent, Green or even Republican candidate, we must dedicate resources to both create urban platforms that move masses of voters, and to recruit and train candidates who are capable and who share our values and views.  Our candidates need to be well-versed on a wide range of issues, to articulate a vision, to be able to dedicate hundreds of hours of time and be ethical and morally unassailable.  If we hope to get there, we’d better get started on raising the bar on our leadership development programs to a higher level.

The Right to the City Civic Engagement Workgroup understands that we live in country in which the electoral structures are stacked against us.  Completing the democratic revolution in the United States is part of our ongoing struggle.  We stand on the shoulders of the suffragettes who won the right to vote for women.  We stand on the shoulders of over two decades of Black struggle that won African Americans the right to vote. 

Today’s struggles to expand democracy include structural challenges such as the stacking of the political deck with two Senators selected by states like Montana, Wyoming or Idaho, which have both low populations and very few residents of color.  At a national level this leads to a built in white and conservative bias in the U.S. senate.  States like Virginia and Alabama still deny ex-felons (disproportionately African American) the right to vote unless they’ve received gubernatorial pardons.  Similarly democratic rights are denied, in almost all elections, to non-citizens - even those who are long-term tax-paying residents. 

At a local level, very few jurisdictions build their local budgets from the ground up with popular participation.  Important decisions like zoning - which dictate who will live in the cities of the future - are decided in hyper-technical board rooms by specialized lawyers.  How can cities regulate and control the flow of capital?  How can we prevent large businesses from relocating?  While we must fight in the electoral system of today we - as the Right to the City Alliance- must fight and win radical democratic structures that better allow ever expanding participation and popular power. Electoral abstentionism has been the default practice of most of our Right to the City organizations until very recently.  To continue this practice is to cede power to the dominant ‘minority’ who currently run most of our cities. 

RTTC Civic Engagement members sat in the seats of the Maywood City Council where a progressive majority has been won.

Get in the game 
Join together to engage and win power.  Challenge the institutions and ideas that dominate our lives and that are destroying our planet.  This is not the work of any one organization alone.  We need to seize the current political moment and boldly experiment with ideas, platforms, training programs and campaigns. Together, however, we can:

• build organizations to scale

• build urban majority voting blocs through alliance organizing / voter work

• train candidates who are leaders for our communities and beyond

• develop precinct leaders and field workers who lead neighborhoods during elections and lead campaigns afterwards

• win radical democratic reforms that help us better build power and open the way  for still greater social transformation. The state and elections are a place for radical contestation, transformation and power building, but only if we make it so. 

Jon Liss is the Executive Director of Tenants and Workers United and Virginia New Majority (PAC), and a steering committee member for the Right to the City Alliance. The ideas and views of this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Right to the City Alliance.

Watch Jon Liss on GritTV: Progressives and it's Discontents

Jon Liss playing a practical joke on organizer Claire Tran by stealing her pretzels at the RTTC Member Congress.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona. SB1070. You. (Plus- Updated Info on the Ruling and Next Steps)

By Marisa Franco

Power blue sky blushes at sunset. A welcome sight after a hard day of heat in Phoenix Arizona. After rush hour dies down, in any given barrio in the valley you can hear the sound of kids playing in the street if you listen hard enough. Somewhere, friends have met for happy hour, football practice is starting, dinner is on the stove. I sit on my momma's porch, give the chicano nod to cars cruising by when I recognize the drivers. Born and bred in this place, I find myself here again, after having been gone for years. And every time I come home, there are some things I recognize, some things I don't. Just like I am still the same, and somehow, now different.

So I have to say, I wasn't surprised when I heard about the passage of SB1070. I wasn't surprised because every time I come home, I hear stories of 'el Arpaio', or I hear about the latest law that got passed banning this or ticketing you for that. I remember how Arizona was the last state to recognize a Dr. Martin Luther King holiday, I remember the countless attempts to undo affirmative action, ban bilingual education, copy laws like Proposition 187 from California.

And who knows..maybe the fact that all this didn't cause a huge uproar before is that we somehow have this way with places, you love what you love and learn to live with what you don't. But, the passage of SB1070 was different. The reaction across the country has largely disgraced the state. But on top of that, many have said, simply put: what the fuck is going on here?

The fact is that in the last 5 years, over 6,000 immigration related bills have been proposed in the State Legislature - that's more than one a day per session. Rather than finding solutions to problems of unemployment, foreclosures, and in the educational system, it seems as though the state capital has become a legislative laboratory to make the lives of migrants miserable. It has become the status quo to blame immigrants for virtually every problem the state faces. In southern Arizona, the Border Patrol's presence has become the norm, as has the death toll of people found in the desert. And then we have Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, building upon his chain gangs and tent cities, parading around the city conducting raids and sweeps. He has already stated, he's willing to build tent cities all the way to the border to make room for migrants. And now, just days before the implemention of SB1070, Judge Susan Bolton deliberates the legality of this law. The Obama Administration, while correct in its suit against the law on the one hand, outsources immigration enforcement to local law enforcment (read Sheriff Joe Arpaio) on the other.

Somehow, this law and what it represents has become a marker for the future of this place. A line has been drawn in the sand. Its for what kind of Arizona this will be now and in the future. And I don't know about you, but I don't think I want to place it all in the hands of a judge. We don't want half injunctions of an immoral law, we need full justice for our community. All these characters have a role in the outcome, but so do you. Where do you stand? It is a question we must all answer. No matter how much we can afford to contribute to the outcome. Just think - What if everyone who opposes this bill took decisive action to oppose and undermine it? What would that look like?

One of the civil and human rights issue of our time has landed on the doorstep of Arizona. It matters here, and it matters in many other places. It will be determined here and in many other places. July 29th is just one day, but it is key in sending a message of what is to come. Is it that the vision of Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio that will prevail? Or is it the other Arizona, the Arizona you and I know that will prevail? Will it be an Arizona that has room for you, your children, your family? The questions will only be answered by our actions.
If you have ideas on this, or want more information on what's happening this week, hit me up. Un abrazo, marisa

UPDATE: Judge Susan Bolton has issued her ruling on SB1070.
What is moving forward:
-- It will be illegal to solicit work on streetcorners (directly impacting day-laborers)
-- It will be illegal to harbor or drive people without documents, making it a state crime and in addition, those person's cars will be confiscated
-- It will be illegal to not enforce immigration law (meaning it bans any type of sanctuary city status)
-- It will be legal to sue state agencies for not enforcing immigration law

What has been TEMPORARILY stopped:
-- Granting police the right to stop question person's status for 'reasonable suspicion' of being undocumented.
-- Requiring people to have their documentation with them at all time.
-- Making it a crime for people without documentation to solicit, apply or perform work (this would've made it a state crime in addition to federal crime)

We are moving forward with mobilizations. We want to convey as much as possible -- that this does not solve the human rights crisis in Arizona. First, this is a temporary stop to the law. Second, several important peices move forward that criminalize our community. Third, ICE Access programs such as 287g and Secure Communities program give local law enforcement license to conduct raids and sweeps.


* NY RTTC-9:30: Middagh Street and Cadman Plaza.
* LA-10AM: La Brea and Wilshire.
* Oakland-12pm: Federal Building / 3pm Fruitvale BART Plaza
* Phoenix-9am: Sheriff Arpaio’sOffice. 1st ave & Washington. 4:00pm County Jail. 5th ave & Madison.
*Text30644, with message of 'Arizona' for updates.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities Statement on SB1070

As Arizona’s racist immigration law, SB 1070, goes into effect today, we are more committed than ever to fighting racism in all its forms. We understand fully that SB 1070 – which allows police officers to detain anyone whom they “suspect” is undocumented, which allows for jailing any documented person who is merely in the same car or location as an undocumented person—did not become law in a vacuum. In fact, the conditions for this so-called ‘immigration reform’ have been building for decades.

For Asians, like all other immigrant groups, the question of immigration reform is another moment in the long and tortured fight for equality and justice in the U.S. Alongside the myth of great opportunity, advancement, and freedom, the reality of economic exploitation and exclusion resulting from our nation’s discriminatory immigration and civil rights policies have equally defined the experience of Asians in the U.S.

Although Asians have been in the U.S. in large numbers since the mid-1800s, we could not become citizens until 1943. Beginning in 1882, in response to growing racism and xenophobia, immigration from China was halted and in 1924, these exclusionary laws were made applicable to immigrants from throughout Asia. It was not only through laws that we were excluded and barred from entering – in 1904, the first border patrol was created in order to detain and deport Chinese immigrants who were crossing the border with Mexico into the U.S. It was only in 1965, during the height of the civil rights movement, that these restrictions to immigration were repealed.

Today, our communities continue to face barriers to immigration, with hundreds of thousands of us waiting to join our families here in the U.S. Once here, millions of us work long hours for below the minimum wage as a result of oppressive labor policies such as employer sanctions, which result in unfair wages for all low-wage workers, not just immigrants. Asians have also faced the harsh impact of the post-1996 immigration reforms, which have led to the detention and deportation of hundreds of thousands of our community members.

In the wake of the current economic crisis, the immigration debate has been re-framed into a debate about how immigrants are criminals. The use of the term ‘illegal immigrants’ is rife with images of yellow and brown people stealing land and jobs from ‘real Americans.’

This criminalization is not new – communities of color have been criminalized for centuries, and pushed to the margins of our society. From the time of slavery to today, with the huge growth in the prison population, examples abound that make clear how this idea that people of color are criminals is a way to prevent us from attaining full citizenship (even if we have our papers).

But the real criminals are not immigrants, or black men, or queer youth – the true criminals in our country have destroyed our economy, yet still collect multi-million dollar compensation packages. The real criminals shoot people of color and are not held accountable. The real criminals have polluted our water, air, and our land. The real criminals fight tooth and nail against laws that would protect the civil rights of LGBTQ communities. The real criminals started two wars that have devastated millions of lives and cost us trillions of dollars.
As Asians, we have experienced how the promise of the American Dream has benefited some and marginalized most. We know first-hand that even with money and citizenship status, we will be regarded as immigrants – and thus as less than fully human – because of our skin color. And we know in a country that likes to define race in terms of Black and White, most people would like it if we just remained quiet and invisible.

We stand together as Asians from diverse backgrounds in our demand for fair and just immigration reform. U.S. immigration policies should reflect this country's highest values: that all people should be treated equally with respect for their basic human rights, including the ability to work with dignity and at a fair wage. We must cease to view immigrants solely as cheap labor and recognize that migration is driven by global economic and political conditions, often caused by the U.S.'s own unfair economic practices at home and abroad.”

CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities is a member organization of the Right to the City Alliance CAAAV works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City.  Through an organizing model constituted by five core elements- zing basebuilding, leadership development, campaigns, alliances, and organizational development- CAAAV organizes communities to fight for institutional change and participates in a broader movement towards racial, gender, and economic justice. Learn more at