Bill Chandler is the founding Executive Director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance . An eyewitness to the brutal immigration raids of the 1950’s, he has been continuously involved in supporting the rights of immigrant workers.
He is married to L. Patricia Ice, the MIRA Legal Project Director.
Chandler has been an organizer for more than 50 years, beginning as a laboratory worker in 1960 when he helped build SEIU Local 434 at Los Angeles County Hospital, to working with the United Farm Workers during the 1965 Delano-based grape workers strike, to the historic, trans-national, and powerful Starr County farm workers strike in 1966. Sent as an organizer by Cesar Chavez, he witnessed first hand both the U.S. and Mexican governments’ brutal but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to repress labor justice. Since then, his organizing focus has been on the lowest paid workers in the South, including farm workers, hospitality, health care, and immigrant workers. Bill has pro-actively served the struggle for affirmative action in the Labor Movement: every union he has organized in the South has been led by women of color, and MIRA’s board of directors is a majority African-American and Latino board.
Gilbert Padilla was sent to Rio Grande City, Texas, to be in charge of the Las Casitas Farms strike and organized boycott committees in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, and San Antonio in 1967. The second day after his arrival, Rev. Jim Drake and Padilla were kneeling down praying in front of the courthouse in Rio Grande City because they had workers in jail and could not get bail for them. They were accused of disturbing the janitor from performing his duties and were arrested and jailed.
Padilla's family joined him there and the other volunteers who worked with me were Doug Adair and Bill Chandler. As part of their strategy, they brought in the Civil Rights Committee of Texas, headed by Carlos Turan, to expose the injustices at the hands of the Texas Rangers. We also brought the Congressional Committee on Migratory Labor, headed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Yarborough of Texas, to the Rio Grande Valley to observe the injustices. The wages for workers were from $6 to $8 per day working 10 to 12 hours a day, and they were hauled in cattle trucks to work. We improved the wages to $1 an hour, which at that time in Texas was a significant gain.
Chandler, who worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 1970s, first came to Mississippi to help with civil rights leader Charles Evers’ unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 1971. “There was nothing for the youth” in the state to encourage political activism or even awareness, he says.
Jose P. Bustamante June 20, 2013
Drastic Cutback in Military Spending
A brochure announcing a National Conference for a Drastic Cutback in Military Spending, to be held on April 5-6, 1975, at the LaSalle Hotel, Chicago, was printed by the National Conference on Military Spending Organizing Committee, of 156 Fifth Avenue, Room 716, NYC, NY, 10010. The printing Bug was that of the CPUSA's Prompt Press, 209.
Endorsed Communist Party Call
On March 30 2002 the Communist Party USA paper People’s Weekly World called for a national holiday in honor of late Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chavez. The article was followed by a long list of endorsersincluding Bill Chandler, Almost all endorsers were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA.
Committees of Correspondence NCC
In 2009 Bill Chandler, Mississippi , was elected to the National Co-ordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and and Socialism from the member's post National Convention ballot.
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Social Forum CCDS workshop
There was a very successful Southern region Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism workshop at the 2010 Social Forum in Detroit—about twelve individuals came to the panel. Bill Chandler, Ash-Lee Henderson, Brandon Wallace, and Tim Johnson were presenters.
"Immigrant rights" activism
In 2011 Arizona like anti-immigration bills were sweeping the South. But in Mississippi, a strong alliance including the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus killed some 33 bills; including 5 “Arizona clones,” meant to “frighten ‘illegal aliens’ out of Mississippi” as several Republican senators stated as they clamored for passage of these proposals.
Mississippi's SB 2179 was the last of a whole host of bills that would have "increased already present discrimination and racial profiling in Mississippi". Activists mobilized across Mississippi and came to the state capital and spoke out. The Jackson daily Clarion-Ledger stated “They were all colors and races; members of the NAACP, life long Mississippians and naturalized citizens”. Tatiana Sabogal was quoted in The Clarion-Ledger saying, “It's racial profiling whether you have documents or not. Because you look different or sound different, you become a target.” She stated that she came because she has both legal and undocumented members in her family and their rights should not be violated.
Organized largely by Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, MIRA’s Director, Bill Chandler (and CCDS NCC member) stated, “This law is a challenge to who we are as a state and who we are as human beings. The proposal only pandered to the fear, xenophobia and bigotry of only some of our residents. This legislation violates the civil rights of all residents of Mississippi. We need to ask our selves what kind of state we want to live in—one that respects human rights, or one that returns to the days of trampling on the rights of people of color.”
And in the midst of the fight to kill those bills, 58 Latino immigrants were arrested when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided apartment complexes in various communities surrounding Jackson, Mississippi’s state capitol. Jackson may have been avoided by ICE, due to the recent passage of an anti-racial profiling ordinance enacted by the majority Black city council at the behest of MIRA. “What's taking place is overt racial profiling” Bill Chandler told reporters. In August 2008 a raid in Laurel Mississippi occurred, the largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, which resulted in the arrest of 592 workers and the deportation of most of them, breaking up families and spreading undue hardship.
MIRA worked very hard to oppose these attacks though grassroots organizing, mobilizing and education. MIRA has also been in the forefront in the campaign to free the Scott Sisters, which they see as directly related to the attacks on Latinos. The Scott Sisters symbolize the incarceration of people of color in huge numbers, ultimately denying enfranchisement upon their release. MIRA has a broad platform of issues. They work very much in the grassroots traditions of Mississippi. It was just through this kind of work that MIRA was able to defeat all 33 of the anti-immigrant bills in the Mississippi legislature this year including SB 2179!
Besides MIRA and the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus that includes 13 of 52 State Senators, and 37 of 122 State Representatives, and several white rural Democrats including the Speaker of the House, strong grassroots support came from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, statewide NAACP, Southern Echo, the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees/Communications Workers of America, the United Auto Workers, the Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union, the Mississippi Human Services Coalition, the Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Church from several Mississippi cities, students from various historically Black universities, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, and many others including Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba. Most importantly, the active mobilization at the Mississippi state capitol, by hundreds of courageous immigrants themselves, including many without “papers,” was responsible for the victory during the 2011 Mississippi Legislative Session.
Lumumba Transition Executive Committee
Circa June 18, Jackson Mayor-elect Chokwe Lumumba announced the members of an advisory committee that will help ease his transition into the mayor’s office in July.
- Co-chair Safiya Omara, director of the Southern Institute for Mental Health Advocacy Research and Training at Jackson State University
- Co-chair Synarus Green, legislative aide to Rep. Bennie Thompson
- Akil Bakari, managing partner for Expert Professionals Solutions, LLC.
- Bill Chandler, executive director of Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance
- Bill Dilday, political analyst and owner of the Kerimax Communications
- Barry Howard, a senior partner at the Howard Law Firm
- Nsombi Lambright, former Executive Director of the Mississippi ACLU
- Merrill McKewen, resource development director for Habitat for Humanity
- Michael Thomas, vice-president of finance at JSU.
- Latrice Westbrooks, an attorney
Immigrant rights event
A bus that left New York City during the second week of October 2014mbound for the Texas-Mexico border carried a group of people promoting solidarity for immigrants made a stop in Jackson Mississippi Tuesday, October 14 to meet with local immigration rights groups.
While here, those abroad the Immigrant Refugee Caravan paid tribute to Jackson’s late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, an ally in the fight for human and immigrant rights.
The brightly painted bus with 16 people aboard rolled into Downtown Jackson at about 4 p.m. and gathered with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA), Cooperation Jackson and other groups at MIRA headquarters on North State Street.
The mission of the caravan was to show solidarity for children caught in the immigration quagmire upon arrival in this country from Mexico and bring awareness to changes in U.S. immigration policies that adversely affect families.
Ana Maria Cardenas, with Pastors for Peace, is the program coordinator for Friendshipment Caravans. The participants held an anti-militarization rally to protest immigrants being held at government way-stations along the border, with children often separated from their parents.
Bill Chandler, MIRA executivem director, said MIRA is concerned about the children. “They aren’tmarriving here without authorization.mThey are refugees from violencemin their country,” he said.
Pablo Blanco, of South Bronx, New York, said the issue with Honduran women and children ismthat they are being brought here by human traffickers after being told they won’t be deported. Blanco said this happens because their land is wanted for resort development.
Later Tuesday evening , the caravan made its way to City Hall for a candlelight remembrance of Chokwe Lumumba, who was a legal counsel for MIRA.
“We have deep gratitude,” Chandler said. “It’s important to remember the leadership of Chokwe Lumumba, who worked furiously for human rights.”
The son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, reminded us that his father believed in working for the right of all people, regardless of their status - “the very cause that you arrived here for.”
Other participants included Rosa Toledo of New York, Safiya Omari, late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s chief of staff, Bryan Eason and participants in the Mississippi Immigration Rights Alliance (MIRA) who express solidarity for reform with Civil Rights veteran Rims Barber, Mississippi College Law student Thomas J. Estopare, and a caravan rider from New York Ashlyn Matthews.
- National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights BOD page, accessed June 19 2013
- Gilbert Padilla 1962 - 1980
- Labor South, Thursday, July 28, 2011 Hope in Mississippi: Labor activists fighting the odds in a state that's the model for national GOP
- [House Ways & Means Committee hearings on IRS Tax Reform, printed report on Illegal Lobbying written by the Council for Inter-American Security CIS, 1977. The report was submitted in lieu of testimony as CIS learned of a townhall hearing too late to get put on the live witness testimony list and was told to submit the report as their official statement]
- CCDS Mobilizer Vol. 6 No. 2 Summer 2010 page 6
- In Mississippi Immigrants - 33; Bigots - 0, By Janet Tucker, Bill Chandler CCDS Mobilizer, Vol 3, No. 2, Spring 2011
- [http://www.blackmountainnews.com/article/D0/20130618/NEWS01/306180048/Lumumba-transition-Morale-major-weakness-, BlackMountain News, Lumumba on transition: Morale is 'major weakness' Jun. 18, 2013]
- The Mississippi Link Vol. 20, No. 51 October 16 - 22, 2014