On May 1, the immigrant community from New York City to Los Angeles stood up to the racist law passed in Arizona known as SB 1070. What was recognized for us in Arizona was the multi-racial composition of the marchers. The affront to human decency, of this law, was expressed by a broad multi-racial, multi-cultural, young and older, male and female stream of marchers.
The march captured the slogan of "Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos, y si nos hechan, nos regresamos!" The idea is "We are here to stay! We're not leaving, And if they throw us out, We will return!"
The humor was present with a poster that read, "No illegals, No burritos, Think twice America!" And a t-shirt worn by a young man read, "I'm only ½ illegal."
The immigrant community is solid in their place in the U.S. economy, politics and culture. The super exploitation of the immigrant community is the basis for the tremendous wealth in many industries of our nation. Instead of being the target of racial profiling and asked for "papers" by the local police and state agencies, they should be exalted and honored for their contributions, sacrifices and hard work! The extremist legislators and our governor in Arizona should be profiled for ignorance, intolerance, racism and defeat at the polls in November!
Rep. Raul Grijalva, on the day of the signing of SB 1070, called for a national boycott of Arizona- and in so doing, opened one of the greatest opportunities to influence Arizona politics, to repeal SB 1070 and strike a blow against racism and change Arizona's legislature. I can tell you that the response to the boycott call has been very uplifting for the people in this state.
We say, in the labor movement, that a bad boss is the best union organizer and a governor like Brewer and the extremist right-wing legislator Pearce should be able to galvanize, unify and embolden a national movement.
The signing of SB 1070 is a subject of conversation wherever people meet- it can frustrate and divide people very easily. I decided not to lose my temper with a co-worker who supports the law and told him, "If the governor passed a law against people over six foot tall and goofy looking, I would stand up for you and your right to be here. Why can't you defend me?"
If transnational capital can disrupt the lives of millions of subsistence farmers in Mexico, by flooding their market with cheap corn and forcing migration to the north, they have a responsibility for those calamities. As long as workers must sell their labor in order to sustain themselves and their families, and where a job is the only way to do this, then the right to a job must be acted on as international law. Full employment and the right to a job are already recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and maintain that a job is fundamental to all human rights and material survival.
On the question of jobs and immigrants, a very important and quick guide is the AFL-CIO and Change to Win framework for comprehensive immigration reform. In order to deal with the attitude of "They're taking our jobs" and to appeal to their better sense, we need to talk about limiting wage competition, the right to form unions and collective bargaining, protecting U.S. workers and reducing the exploitation of immigrant workers. We need to say that border security is clearly important, but not sufficient, since 40 to 45 percent of unauthorized immigrants did not cross the border unlawfully, but overstayed visas. It's also a fact that 30 million valid visitors cross our border each year. "Enforcement only" policies will not work.
Immigration reform, developed by organized labor calls for:
- independent commissions to determine flow of immigration
- a worker authorization mechanism
- rational operational control of the border
- adjustment of status for current undocumented
- improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs
The AFL-CIO this year has called for a new amnesty for the undocumented, for repeal of employer sanctions and for educating immigrants about their rights.
As we go forward, let's continue to weave the fight for full employment, immigrant rights and the struggle for equality into the 2010 midterm elections.
Steve Valencia is a labor activist from Arizona.
Photo: From the May 1 demonstration of 20,000 people in Tucson, Ariz. (Steve Valencia)