María Elena Durazo announced today that she will leave the LA County Federation of Labor, which she has led for more than eight years.
“I feel that the Los Angeles labor movement is very strong, very progressive, very proactive,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Altogether, we have accomplished a lot. And there is a passion I have always had for immigration and civil rights. So I have the opportunity to do this and completely focus on those issues.”
Durazo will take a new post as international vice-president for immigration, civil rights and diversity at UNITE HERE, whose Los Angeles-based Local 11 she led before joining the County Fed.
The clock is ticking for six refugee children from El Salvador and Guatemala who are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that seeks to compel the Obama administration to ensure access to legal representation for tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors facing deportation proceedings.
The plaintiffs are among the more than 50,000 Central American children who have illegally crossed the border into the Southwestern United States in recent months, fleeing threats of violence by transnational street gangs that arguably exert more effective control over the daily lives of residents in large swathes of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras than those countries’ national governments.
Over a period extending from this month to early next year, the six plaintiffs are scheduled to appear for their own deportation hearings.
After a long hiatus from the spotlight, the immigration debate has flared up once more. Following an incendiary incident in which anti-immigration protesters in Murrieta, California turned away buses of immigrants heading into a detention center, the issue is now receiving a significant amount of attention.
The protesters were responding to a recent influx of immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically near Texas. The majority of these immigrants are powerless women and children who have been displaced due to dire circumstances in Honduras and Guatemala. Border patrols have been rounding up these refugees and transporting them to processing centers where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials determine their legal statuses. Because most of the facilities in Texas are at maximum capacity, these immigrants are being transported to other processing centers. This most recent surge of migration has become such a major humanitarian issue that President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion dollars to help solve the problem
At first glance the Murrieta episode seemed like a major setback for immigrant-rights supporters,
The caption under this front-page photo in Friday’s Los Angeles Times read: “Gov. Jerry Brown, center, is surrounded by cheering officials, from left, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, L.A City Councilman Gil Cedillo, Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.”
Missing from that list is the smiling woman right behind Brown. That’s Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), a key leader of the immigrant rights movement in California and nationwide and a major force behind passage of the bill that Brown was signing. Salas is also missing from the news story that accompanied the photo. The article quoted politicians and law enforcement officials, but none of the activists whose years of work resulted in this new law as well as several other recent legislative victories, including a domestic workers bill of rights and an increase in the state minimum wage to $10 an hour.
As Labor Day approaches, here’s a question that many opponents of immigration reform don’t want to answer honestly: Can you be for the middle class and against comprehensive immigration reform? The answer is no — a fact that creates all kinds of problems for those lobbying to stop legislation that would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Foes of immigration reform like to position themselves as true-blue patriots acting in the best interests of the country. But it’s hard to square that image with opposition to legislation that, more than any other single act, could help rebuild the nation’s middle class.
It’s obvious to most people that immigration reform would improve economic conditions for undocumented immigrants. After all, while most immigrants come here in search of a better life, their legal status often relegates them to low-wage jobs with few if any benefits and unsafe workplace conditions.