Charlotte’s May 1 rally in support of undocumented immigrants kicked off at noon Monday, with 250 supporters gathering at Marshall Park in the rain.
That’s a fraction of the more than 8,000 who attended a similar affair on Feb. 16, called A Day Without An Immigrant.
Organizers had hoped to match those numbers Monday, and made a plea for people to skip their jobs, not go to school and to close their businesses.
Some protesters blamed the showing on poor weather, while others wondered if the rally came too soon after the Feb. 16 march, which was part of a national Day Without An Immigrant campaign.
Slight attendance did not stop the march from going on as planned, however.
Starting at about 12:30 p.m., the crowd marched along uptown’s major roads, before settling in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. There, they decried city and county leaders for not doing more to keep undocumented immigrants from being deported by federal agents.
Oliver Merino of the immigrant advocacy group Comunidad Colectiva called it a Day of Resistance Against Hate. He noted the cause included not just undocumented immigrants, but other minorities, including the transgender community.
“We're trying to figure out ways to protect everybody in the city,” he said. “We want to make the city a city that respects and nurtures everybody here.”
Among the biggest issues highlighted by the march is Mecklenburg County’s participation in the federal 287(g) program, which alerts federal immigration agents when an undocumented immigrant has been arrested for a crime. Last year, about 100 undocumented immigrants were deported through the program in Mecklenburg County.
Advocates for undocumented immigrants want the county to stop participating in the program, and to commit itself to sheilding the county’s 54,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Organizers of the march included Comunidad Colectiva, the Southeast Asian Coalition and Alerta Migratoria, all of which are pushing city and county leaders to defy federal laws that call for the arrest and deportation of people who are in the country illegally.
The rally ended with the the crowd turning to face the Government Center and repeatedly chanting: “The people united, will never be defeated.”
Comunidad Colectiva recently issued a list of demands to city and county leaders, most of which involved greater protections for undocumented immigrants in the community.
Among the Comunidad Colective’s demands:
- End Mecklenburg County’s participation in the federal 287(g) program. Under that program, all prisoners taken to the county jail are asked about their citizenship. Those who cannot show U.S. citizenship are referred to the 287(g) program for further study by federal agents. (ICE says 100 people were deported in 2016 through Mecklenburg County’s participation in the program.)
- Protect the access of undocumented immigrants to city benefits and services.
- Delete citizenship status questions from all applications, questionnaires and forms used in relation to the city. Prohibit city agencies and employees from requesting information or investigating a person’s citizenship or immigration status.
- End all CMPD motor vehicle checkpoints.
- Cut CMPD funding and “reinvest” the money in housing, health and education programs.
- Decriminalize or create alternative forms of accountability for: crimes of survival, such as theft and sex work; offenses that take place in public schools or other public educational facilities; and “minor” traffic offenses such as DUIs, not having an operators license and driving with a revoked license. (Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to get a North Carolina driver’s license, making it a key issue among advocates.)
- Provide money for immigrants in need of legal representation and create an office within the city to provide legal services to immigrants and refugees.