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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La colère des « Hispanos »

by Special correspondent, Detroit

USA: The Anger of the Hispanics

Translated Tuesday 14 November 2006

The project to build a wall at the Mexican border is creating resistance and solidarity in the Hispanic community

“Mexican City”. It is here, in these rundown houses along desolate streets, full of pot-holes, that the majority of the Hispanic community of Detroit (some 100,000 people) have settled. In earlier times, this was an animated and flourishing neighborhood, close to the sky-scrapers of the city-center. Most of those that find refuge in this area are new arrivals “almost all without papers” explains Helena Herrada of the “Centro Obrero” (Worker Center).

Helena is herself of Mexican origin, from a family well-integrated in the USA, which arrived two generations ago: “My grand-father started working on the Cadillac assembly lines”, she tells us. Helena and a group of leftist activists, mostly union people, decided to create the “Centro Obrero” on the May 1, 2006. “It was an absolute necessity, the new immigrants are totally without resources. The companies in which they find work, in construction, car parts, or in the cleaning services, exploit them. It is undeclared work. Sometimes they are even fired without being paid.

The day we spoke to her, Helena and some friends were giving English literacy classes in a local made available by a section of the United Autoworkers Union (UAW): “All those here are illegal migrants. Sometimes we see one of them two or three times, then we don’t hear from them anymore, only to learn later that he was caught and sent back across the border, without the chance to contact legal services.”
“The wall is a huge insult” proclaims one of the participants in this atypical evening class. “None of these young people vote, of course” says Helena, but she adds, at once, that millions of the older members, who have been here two or three generations like her, have become citizens of the United States (there are thought to be 45 millions Latinos in the country) and they of course have the right to vote: they feel insulted and are much more ready than in the past to express these feelings on election day.

The Wall, an initiative of G.W.Bush, evidently to gain votes in the November election, could have counter-productive results. The goal of this project is to create divisions among those at the bottom of the scale in the United States. When it is suggested that stopping the arrival of Latino migrants will reduce the pressure on jobs and salaries, they are claiming to defend the interests of the Afro-Americans, in other words, 85% of the population living in the run-down center of Detroit.

This demagogy does have some influence on the population targeted. “But fortunately, we have very good contacts with the black municipality of Detroit which supports our struggle”, says Helena. She points out, with a laconic smile: “Everyone is aware that we must not let the Bush administration manipulate us, to turn poor communities against each other, and the only way we can help each other is through solidarity”.

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