The future of immigration reform could well to be decided in the next three weeks. And this will occur not in the halls of Congress but in Congressional Town Hall meetings across the nation. Anti-immigrant activists are hoping for a replay of the Tea Party’s successful August 2009 attacks on health care reform; by triggering loud public confrontations with Congressmembers in normally placid Town Hall meetings, conservative activists led the media to wrongly conclude that reform lacked public support. But in 2013, progressives are prepared. Immigrant rights activists believe they can use the Town Halls to expose the strength of their support and propel immigration reform to passage. Considering that both sides are prepared and the key element of surprise is lacking, whose activist strategies will prevail?
As even President Obama acknowledges, the passage of immigration reform comes down to whether Speaker John Boehner will allow a House vote. A majority of House members would support the Senate bill if given the chance,
A group of nuns began their 6,500-mile bus journey late last month in New Jersey with a view of Ellis Island. Since then, their brightly-decorated blue bus with images of hands raised — to show support for families and immigration reform — has rolled for more than 5,000 miles down Eastern Seaboard roads and into the South. This week marks the California leg of the “Nuns on the Bus” tour supported by NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice group. The nuns’ goal during this 15-state, 40-city whirlwind event which ends on June 18: “Standing with immigrants, faith-filled activists, and Catholic Sisters who serve immigrant communities.”
Last Wednesday, the nuns were scheduled to speak with community groups in Nogales, Arizona and federal lawmakers in Phoenix. After the meeting with government leaders in Phoenix, they joined immigration groups to discuss the tour, the importance of family unity and citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country,
Maria Elena Durazo serves as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents more than 600,000 union workers. She is also the Chair of the National AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee and recently spoke to Frying Pan News about the pending immigration bill in Congress, as well as a new student film competition that her organization and UNITE HERE are sponsoring. (Part 1 of this interview appeared yesterday.)
Frying Pan News: Is there something in particular that bugs you about the immigration bill?
Maria Elena Durazo: Yes! We want to make sure that there’s an alternative to the past guest worker model. We’re hopeful that we can fix the language through what’s commonly referred to as the Labor-Chamber agreement. There are three elements to it. One, that there be an objective, data-driven analysis of the future needs of workers in this country.
Seven years ago María Elena Durazo, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, stood on a stage erected at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, facing a sea of demonstrators who had just paraded miles in support of immigrant rights. In the twilight of that May Day, as Durazo addressed several hundred thousand people, the march for immigration reform seemed unstoppable – an irresistible historic tide that was poised to sweep away any objections.
Then came an angry backlash that saw anti-immigrant legislation passed in Arizona and Alabama that made Proposition 187 – California’s 1994 ballot initiative curbing immigrant rights – seem tame by comparison. Frying Pan News sat down with Durazo to discuss the pending immigration bill in Congress, as well as a new student film competition that her organization is sponsoring with UNITE HERE, a union whose members are largely immigrants.
The “Gang of 8” has finally introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate, giving millions of undocumented workers hope for an immigration reform in 2013. One of these workers is Anabella Aguirre who arrived from Guatemala over 13 years ago. As a single mother of three children, her choice to migrate to the United States was a difficult one. It meant she would have to leave her children and family members behind.
Anabella remains undocumented to this day because our immigration system is broken. During all these years, Anabella has worked as a janitor in Los Angeles. She is also a committed union member of SEIU United Service Workers West. Anabella is fighting with us for immigration reform. Her main motivation is her children’s education. “I hope one day to be able to send my daughters to college here in the United States,” says Aguirre.
Let’s kick off Mother’s Day month with a huge Labor turn-up on May Day.