Tag Archives: immigrant rights

Immigration Reform for Farm Workers, the Most Practical Solution for America

Now more than ever a comprehensive U.S. immigration reform is key in helping rebuild our country and giving back American working families the prosperity and equality they deserve. When we allow a group of people to be exploited and discriminated against, it negatively impacts American workers by driving down wages, benefits and working conditions.

President Obama recently announced he will pursue immigration reform that would allow the millions of undocumented workers already living in the country now to “come out of the shadows.” For that to happen, they need to be able to speak up and report abuses, organize and come to the bargaining table without fearing deportation. The reality is that most of these millions of workers have already established families in their communities and are part of our society as much as any U.S.-born American.

According to the federal government, more than 50 percent of U.S. farm workers laboring are undocumented. If we were to deport all undocumented farm workers, it would mean the collapse of the agricultural industry as we know it. That’s why the UFW has worked together with the agricultural industry for the last 10 years to craft a bipartisan approach that would ensure a legal work force for U.S. agriculture.

This compromise resulted in the AgJobs bill that would give undocumented farm workers presently here the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. AgJobs is the practical and equitable solution in addressing grower concerns about labor shortages and the insecurity that makes farm workers so vulnerable to abuse.

Undocumented farm workers possess essential skills needed to maintain the viability of the agricultural industry. By allowing them to work here without molestation, we can ensure growers have a legal and available work force, and prevent unscrupulous employers from abusing the workers.

Blog by UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, cross-posted from The Hill

Sheriff Arpaio – The Bull Connor of the 21st Century

Friends, there are some things that cannot go unchallenged. They are affronts to human dignity and to what it means to live in America.

Yesterday one of those things happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, the mega-county that contains Phoenix. In a move that smacks of the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and that harks back to the days of the chain gang in the South, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, is clustering 200 undocumented inmates of the County Jail in their own special tent city. The tent city is surrounded by an electric fence, further bringing home the treatment of human being as chattel. The Phoenix New Times has a compelling story detailing yesterdays outrage.

We cannot let this stand. We are circulating a petition that asks Congressman John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings into this latest outrage and the long history of abuse carried out by Sheriff Arpaio.

What makes this move especially troubling is the Sheriff’s determination to expand his tent city to accommodate up to 2500 prisoners, an indication of the scope of his determination to continue his devastating policies of racial profiling, retaliatory arrests aimed at silencing critics, and forced family separation.

These actions are an affront to anyone who cares about human rights and are the logical outcome of a police state mentality that sees the only solution to our immigration challenge coming at the end of a gun.

Therefore, we at ACORN, through our Arizona ACORN members, are taking a stand against this action and the on-going immigration enforcement policies of the Sheriff that have resulted not just in this indefensible move, but in widespread human rights abuses of American citizens and our immigrant cousins.

We are following the lead of community leaders like AZ ACORN Board Member Alicia Russell who said, “This march is an extremely callous and inhumane move, aimed directly at degrading undocumented immigrants. In claiming to justify this action as a way to improve”budget savings”, Arpaio is degrading these immigrants, violating their civil rights, and overreaching his jurisdiction”, the entire Maricopa County town of Guadalupe, and Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability (MCSA) who recently staged a “Death of Democracy” funeral procession protesting the Sheriff’s actions.

We are answering the call of local leaders like Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who has demanded a federal probe into Arpaio’s recent crime sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods using tactics that are tantamount to racial-profiling and reflect poorly on all Arizonans, regardless of their ethnic heritage. We are answering the call of Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who said, “We treat people equally in America. I think it’s wrong.”

Even the conservative Goldwater Institute calls Apraio’s policies “ineffective” in a report released in December. “[He] has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally[.]”

Help us take a stand by asking Rep. Conyers to lead an investigation into these tactics. America needs to stand for justice under the law, not the law of “just us”.

Nine Digits Away from a Dream

What would you do if your American dream had to be deferred? And how would you respond when you find out that your dream must be deferred because of nine digits? Yep, nine digits would be separating you from your plans, your hopes, your wishes, your future. Doesn’t that seem unfair?

Well, it is. It’s quite unfair for all the young people to work so hard to go to college, yet can’t access any financial aid because they are undocumented immigrants. And even if they can somehow make it through college, they can’t get a job because they don’t have those nine little digits. Even though they came here as children, and even though they only remember living here, they are punished for something they had no control over.

So what can be done about this injustice? Follow me after the flip for more…

A couple of days ago, I met this guy named Ricardo. He seemed like a nice guy, and like a typical young professional in Orange County who did everything he was supposed to do to succeed. Yet for some reason, he can’t.

Ricardo did everything he was supposed to do in high school. He excelled in his classes, and he went on to college. He now has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology. He has a master’s in health policy. He wants to serve people in the medical profession. However, he can’t.

So why can’t Ricardo get a job? He doesn’t have those nine digits. His parents brought him here with them some nineteen years ago, and they all came here undocumented. He was only eight years old. He hardly even remembers Mexico. He’s spent the vast majority of his life in the US, and this nation is the nation he calls home.

Ricardo never sought to break the law. He doesn’t gang-bang. He doesn’t deal drugs. He’s not some “criminal alien”. He’s just a smart guy who did everything right and went to school and planned to do something good with his life. So why must he be “punished” for something that he had no control over.

Unfortunately, Ricardo had no opportunity to receive any financial aid. He started school before AB 540 became the law of the land in California in 2003. And since he didn’t have those nine digits, he had to struggle just to afford his college tuition.

But even now that he’s finished school, Ricardo still has to struggle. He can’t get a job. He still doesn’t have those nine digits. He’s at his wit’s end. Without the nine digits, all his dreams must be put on hold indefinitely.

So what can be done? Ricardo’s just one person who’s been unfairly “punished” because of his immigration status. These young people didn’t make a “choice to come here illegally”. They didn’t just decide to “break the law”. They came here as kids, yet they’re being punished like adult criminals. What can be done to fix this?

Obviously, AB 540 isn’t enough. This only helps immigrant students in California, and it only helps these students go to school. However, it doesn’t help them get jobs after school. That’s why we need the DREAM Act.

So what would the DREAM Act do? Basically, it would give a path to legalization for people who brought to the US undocumented as children by their parents. In order to qualify, they need proof of having arrived in the United States before reaching 16 years of age ,as well as proof of residence in the US for a least five consecutive years since their date of arrival. Oh yes, and they must have graduated from an American High School, or obtained a GED.  Oh, and they must also demonstrate “good moral character,” which is defined as the absence of a significant criminal record (or any drug charges whatsoever).

So what exactly would be done? Here’s a quick rundown from the Wiki entry:

Immigrants who meet the above requirements would be eligible to apply for a temporary six (6) year “conditional” residence permit which would allow them to live legally in the United States, obtain driver’s licenses, attend college as in-state residents, work legally (including obtaining a social security number), and apply for special travel documents which would allow for travel outside of the country for limited amounts of time.

During the six years of conditional status, the eligible immmigrant would be required to either (1) graduate from a two-year community college, (2) complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or (3) serve two years in the U.S. military. After the six year period, an immigrant who meets at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident (green card) status. During their temporary time, immigrants would not be eligible for federal higher education grants such as Pell grants, though they would be able to apply for student loans and work study.

There, now doesn’t that sound fair? Doesn’t this do justice for people like Ricardo who never sought to “break the law”, but just want a chance to do something good with their lives? Don’t they have a right to pursue their dreams? Oh yes, and shouldn’t they finally just have a chance to get those darn nine digits so that they can move on with their lives? Isn’t it only in the best interest of the greater society that they can be productive forces in our society?

So would you like to find out more about the stories of these immigrant students, the story behind the DREAM Act, and why we shouldn’t stereotype immigrants? If you’re in Orange County, you can watch a special play, “9ine Digits Away from My Dream”. You can hear more about Ricardo’s story, as well as stories from other immigrant students in Orange County who are struggling because of an unfair system. And yes, you can gain some more understanding, and find out what you can do to change this.

And no matter where you live, you can urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to get the DREAM Act passed in the House. Isn’t it time that we stop deferring these young people’s dreams? Should we allow nine digits to get in the way of these people’s dreams of better lives?