by Duane Campbell
At a mass meeting and send-off of pilgrims, hosted by Pico of California, with Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto , Pico youth leaders Cecilia Munoz and Noemi Hernandez declared, “this Immigration reform is not good enough “ at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sacramento on Aug.11, 2013.
The meeting in the packed church hall was a send off event for eleven pilgrims to begin a 285 mile walk through California’s Central Valley, the vegetable heart land of U.S. agriculture. – a pilgrimage toward citizenship. The walk begins on Monday Aug. 11. Religious and human rights activists are also preparing to go to Modesto to join with the pilgrims as they walk neighborhoods to bring pressure on Central Valley Congressmen who have not yet supported comprehensive immigration reform. The 285 mile walk will conclude in 22 days at the Bakersfield office of Cong. Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip in the House. McCarthy is not usually counted among the Tea Party Congress persons. The Bakersfield area district has a 35% Latino population and 22.8 % of the voters in the 2010 election were Latino.
The Pico youth activists described the past campaign for citizenship, the passage of the Senate bill S.744, and detailed its shortcomings. The current proposal’s barriers to citizenship are too high. Some 3 million current residents will be excluded .
“We want read comprehensive immigration reform that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants and that upholds the fundamental American values of family and fairness.”.. this basic message was delivered in both English and Spanish.
“Only a direct, inclusive and affordable path to citizenship for the friends, families, neighbors and members of our faith communities who are undocumented achieves the central goal of immigration reform and Americans of faith will accept nothing less.”
PICO of California is made up of over 400 religious congregations, schools and neighborhood groups and represents some 450,000 families.
U.S. unions are deeply involved in the immigration legislation. The divisions noted by PICO have also emerged from within labor.
The national AFL-CIO praised the passage of S744 in the Senate, Richard Trumka said,
“The United States Senate today moved our country a big step closer to building a common sense immigration system that will allow millions of aspiring Americans to become citizens.
Now it is up to the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead by allowing a majority of House members to vote on a bill with a path to citizenship. “ and,
“There is much that works for working people in the Senate bill. Most of all, it allows people who are American in every way except on paper to come out of the shadows, lift themselves out of poverty and be recognized as contributors to our communities and our country.”
But, Trumka added, “ Unfortunately, the bill has become less inclusive, less compassionate and less just since it emerged from the Gang of 8’s bipartisan compromise. We will work to see the bill offer even more protections to workers, more access to needed benefits, a far less militarized, more sensible border security program and fewer obstacles to aspiring Americans. Clearly, no further compromise to the roadmap to citizenship can be tolerated by the labor movement or our allies. “ (AFL-CIO. June 27, 2013.)
The Service Employees International which has been one of the more active advocate for the bill saw the passage of the amended S744 as a major victory for working people. SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina said,
“”What we can undoubtedly affirm is that this bill will set a new precedent and will mend much of our broken immigration system. It will allow millions of our friends, colleagues, families and neighbors to enter the threshold into American society, democracy and our economy. The lives of all families will be impacted for the better as will our economy that will stand to flourish.
“What lies ahead will not be easy or pretty, but what stands before the House is a model of compromise that stood the test of scrutiny, heated debate and challenging amendments. The bill is an agreement between two political parties that found common ground in upholding a roadmap to citizenship unfettered by burdensome barriers, protecting future and current working families and strengthening the unity of families.”
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) also endorsed the bill as it was passed in the Senate.
The PICO organized pilgrimage is traveling through largely Republican controlled Congressional districts in California. Passage in the Republican House is troubled. The role of Republican Whip McCarthy and of Republicans in districts like the Central Valley where Latino votes are crucial may play a critical role in whether the comprehensive bill even gets to a floor vote.
Filed under: Immigrant Workers, Low wage workers, Solidarity, Youth Tagged: | California, immigration reform, Kevin McCarthy, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Pico, Senate, United States, United States Senate