SouthCoastToday.com: Blue-collar Americans and blue-collar immigrants caught in same trap

Jack Spillane speaks the truth on this fine Sunday, March 11, 2012:

Reina Rivas stood in the cold outside the former Michael Bianco factory Friday night and talked determinedly to about 100 people about what it was like to be jailed for being an illegal immigrant.

The 34-year-old Rivas, a one-time teacher in Guatemala, on the day of the Bianco raid, was working at the South End factory that used to make canvas bags for military gear used by American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rivas was one of the 361 women and men (mostly women) who were swept up in the now-infamous ICE raid that exposed a raw nerve in the city of New Bedford five years ago this week. She was held at the Barnstable House of Correction after being removed from the Bianco factory.

Many of the women who worked as seamstresses in the Bianco sweatshop were parents, and an estimated 112 children, including some who were nursing, were separated from their mothers after the raid.

But the Bianco raid was just as unnerving to many working-class city residents, with talk radio and protests erupting in anger at the immigrants in the wake of the roundup.

Rivas spoke in Spanish to the gathering, comprising young, Central American families and both Latino and American activists. “She thanked God for healing hearts and memories, and asked that the government policies be more just and respectful of human dignity,” said Father Rich Wilson, translating after Rivas had finished speaking.  Read more …

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