by Duane Campbell
October 8, thousands of people from across the country gathered in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the rally at the National Mall and march to the U.S. Capitol, two hundred of the attendees – national and local community and labor leaders, impacted immigrants, civil rights and faith leaders, and Members of Congress, follow the event at the steps of the U.S. Capitol with nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at underscoring the urgent need to vote and pass fair immigration reform this year. Speakers at the rally include Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), civil rights leader Julian Bond, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. Other Members of Congress, national and local community, faith, and labor leaders will be standing on stage during key moments before the march begins.
Some of the national and local leaders participating in civil disobedience include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor, New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. For more on the Washington events go to www.AmericasVoice.com
These arrests follow the arrests of Women Activists for immigration on Sept.13, and union activists on Aug. 10.
In Sacramento the California Republican Party headquarters across the street from the State Capitol was the site of a demonstration by Unite/Here and SEIU members as well as community activists. The Republican party was confronted with a message of, “ We will remember your candidates in November.”
Alma Lopez, one of the organizers of the Sacramento event called upon Republicans to “demonstrate their support for immigration reform that reflects the values of our communities and includes a legalization process that is fair and respects the dignity of the undocumented community.
In August, as Congressional leaders turned their attention to Syria and budget crises, work by progressive groups and internal divisions on immigration reform intensified. In California, labor and its allies targeted Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield with demonstrations by thousands of farm workers, faith communities, and immigrant rights groups, including a 285-mile pilgrimage of protest to the Bakersfield office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, majority whip in the House. McCarthy is not usually counted among the extreme Tea Party Congresspersons. The Bakersfield area district has a 35 percent Latino population and 22.8 percent of the voters in the 2010 election were Latino.
While most Republicans remain with the Tea Party’s anti-immigrant position to only pass legislation to enhance border security and intensify enforcement, bringing even more mass prosecutions and deportations, two California Republican Congressmen from districts with a high density of Latinos have pledged to vote for comprehensive reform including a path toward citizenship. Community groups are focusing on changing the votes of the other Republican holdouts in districts around the nation. However on September 20, Texas Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson resigned from the house bi-partisan effort known as the Gang of Seven. Their action probably ends the possibility of House compromise or a bi-partisan bill from the House.
In September the AFL-CIO at its convention passed a strong immigrants’ rights resolution saying:
EVERY DAY, more than 11 million aspiring citizens contribute to our communities, our economy and our country — yet they are effectively not covered by our fundamental labor law and are denied essential rights in our society.
A strong and vibrant democracy cannot function unless all men and women living and working within its borders, regardless of their skin color or their place of birth, can participate meaningfully in the political process with full rights and equal protections.
The union movement recognizes that the way we treat aspiring citizens reflects our commitment to democracy and the values that define us.
Working people are strongest when no group of workers is exploited, and the union movement is strongest when it is open to all workers regardless of where they were born.
(Read the full resolution here. )
The convention and the member unions pledged to make a sustained effort for immigration reform and to bring immigrants into their unions.
In California the organizing momentum for immigrants’ rights has produced long-sought new legislation to provide driver’s licenses for undocumented drivers and passage of the Trust Act, encouraging local police to not hold for deportation persons arrested for minor civil violations such as selling tamales to feed their families, as well as passage of an increase in the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2014 and $10 per hour in 2016. The governor has said he will sign these bills.
Duane Campbell is a professor (emeritus) of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and chair of Sacramento DSA.
See. Divisions Grow on Immigration Reform, Democratic Left. Fall. 2013. P. 12.
The Continuing Struggle for Immigration Reform. Sept. 27, 2013. http://www.dsausa.org/the_continuing_struggle_for_immigration_reform