By Elvira Arellano
Speaking in New York last week, Congressman Gutierrez gave a clear and brutal message to the 12 million undocumented – and their 5.1 million children. With the Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years, there is very little chance to pass immigration reform legislation. He also confirmed that President Obama has the power to grant “hardship” legal status to the undocumented family members of the 5.1 million children, stopping the 1100 daily deportations and separation of families.
The President in fact, with the stroke of a pen, can make it possible for millions of these family members to get legal papers and work permits, bringing them out of the shadows and giving security and peace of mind to millions of children.
Congressman Gutierrez made his remarks in Queens at a breakfast organized by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Queens Working Families Party. As labor unions face the most vicious attack on their fundamental right to collective bargaining in a century, the Congressman challenged them to join their fight with the new campaign of the families of the undocumented.
This new campaign is different than the campaign we waged for the passage of a new immigration reform law. In that campaign, we needed to get the votes of republicans and conservative democrats. To do this we accepted arguments in our behalf that put us in an apologetic role. Throwing ourselves on the mercy of the politicians did not work. It is time to build our movement on truth. It is time to demand our rights based on the power of working people.
Migrant labor in the global economy is as much a part of the economies of rich nations as banks or stocks or corporations – or the labor of their legal citizens. Because of the great inequality between the rich and poor countries, millions of workers leave their homes to find work in richer countries every day. They become an essential part of the economies of the countries they go to. Adding up the numbers of these workers across the world it becomes clear that in any given year there are as many as 100 million migrant workers.
The difference between these workers and the home grown workers is that the migrants have few rights. The migrant worker is kept in the shadows in order to minimize their right to join unions, their right to negotiate better wages and safe working conditions. The exploitation of these workers also weakens the power of their fellow workers. The most exploited are the workers without papers who are virtually defenceless. Without this workforce, the corporations of the United States and Europe would be unable to compete with China and the new fast growing developing countries.
The most fundamental human right of a worker is to have and raise a family. It is the reason most of us work. It is certainly the reason most of us went to the United States to work. It is more than a human right. It is our spiritual and God given mission. Every mother who has felt a child growing inside her, every father who has witnessed the birth of a son or daughter, knows that this miracle and the bond it creates comes from God.
We will not apologize for crossing the border to work. We did not create the system of undocumented labor in this twisted global economy, we simply did what was necessary to survive within it. These nations must be forced to recognize our place in their economic systems – and they must be forced to respect our dignity, our human rights and our rightful place on this earth as children of God.
The democratic party – and the democratic President – owe their positions to working people. What is true about the condition of working people today is what has always been true. We survive when we recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all. There is no greater injury that can be done to a human being than to deny them their children, to deny children the right to their parents. The democrats and this democratic President must be made to recognize their responsibility to the people who elected them – and their accountability before our maker. If they do not, than the Working Families Party will take its place.
As the campaign for legalization and family unity focuses on President Obama, Familia Latina Unida calls on the labor unions and all people of faith to join in a human family chain across the cities of the United States and Mexico on May 1st. Let it be the beginning of a non-apologetic campaigns for American Families and Children and the Dignity of ALL workers.