February 9, 2001
Representatives of the United Farm Workers, SEIU, HERE and other unions across the nation, and other local organizations joined their voices today (Feb 7, 2001) in a renewed call for changes in U.S. immigration laws.
"The new Congress has returned to Washington, and we call on them to acknowledge how important immigration issues really are to the continued health of our national economy," explained UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, "We are here to organize support for legislation being introduced today by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D. Ill.) His bill will provide opportunities for hard-working, tax-paying immigrants to normalize their status, and eventually become U.S. citizens if they wish.
"Immigrant labor has played a major role in the economic expansion we have experienced over the past 7 -8 years. It is only fair that this nation recognize their contributions and reward their labors by changing the registry date for workers who have been here since 1996. These workers came here seeking nothing more than a chance to make a living for themselves and their families. They have earned the right to participate fully in the life of this great nation they have helped to enrich. And, we look forward to working with our partners to bring this vision to reality."
Because farmworkers and other low-wage workers constitute the great majority of the undocumented population, the United Farm Workers will join forces with other farmworker advocacy groups to present a unified demand for immigration reform. Other members of the coalition include the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos (PCUN) based in the Pacific Northwest, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, and C.I.T.A. whose efforts are focused in the New England region.
"We all share the common goal of helping our membership improve their lives. A new amnesty program will benefit workers from Long Island to Puget Sound, and from North Dakota to South Texas," explained UFW President Arturo Rodriguez.
Last year the AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously passed a landmark resolution in solidarity with immigrant workers. The historic resolution called for a new legislation program, repeal of employer sanctions, and to strengthen the right to organize for immigrant workers.
The local coalition reflects the makeup of a national coalition which includes the AFL-CIO, the National Immigration Forum, and numerous religious and immigration-related organizations. The common thread which binds all these diverse organizations together, is their desire for an immigration policy under which every resident can expect to be treated with respect and fairness.
Rodriguez made reference to the worries of "Maria" the daughter of undocumented parents. "Maria" is a high school junior with excellent grades, apparently very capable of going to college. Yet, her dreams do not include post-secondary education because of the high cost for so-called foreign students. "We are in this struggle for the thousands of talented young people whose energy and ambition will be pushed aside unless we can find a way to normalize their families' immigration status."
Representatives of the UFW explained that support in the community for the bill introduced by Representative Gutierrez runs deep. "The fear people feel is very real every time the Migra passes by. In this new century, people should no longer be forced to live their lives in fear of the government. Representative Gutierrez continues to be our champion for decency in the way immigrants are treated. We urge the rest of Congress to consider his bill and support the changes he proposes."