UDW providers rally for immigration reform in San Diego

By Cynthia McCabe, AFSCME International
March 16, 2013
SAN DIEGO – Workers tired of the nation’s 11 million immigrants being exploited for labor then left out of the American Dream came from across Southern California to raise their voices and call for comprehensive immigration reform.

“The time is now to fix our broken immigration system,” Pres. Lee Saunders told the cheering crowd gathered outside a local church for an afternoon of activism and testimonials from immigrant workers and students. Joining him were Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Rep. Juan Vargas of California. Saunders urged the hundreds in attendance Saturday to demand action from Congress. “We’ve got to be on the frontlines of this fight to bring 11 million aspiring citizens out of the shadows.”

Rally participant Gilbert Leos, a home care provider in San Diego with United Domestic Workers/AFSCME Local 3930, is also a former border patrol agent. In both his current and former profession, he saw the desire of immigrants to come to this country to improve their own lives and to make a contribution.

“I saw what the needs are for immigration reform,” said Leos. “People just want to have a better life and make a decent living.”

Members of the United Domestic Workers, University of California Local 3299, Local 127 (Council 36) and United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals stood in solidarity with their sisters and brothers from the AFL-CIO San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council and Unite Here at the event.

The afternoon’s events were part of an ongoing cross-country tour mobilizing activists. Future stops include northern California, New York, New Jersey and Chicago. AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes, who sits on the National AFL-CIO Immigration Reform Task Force, recently appeared at a rally in Anaheim, Calif.

On Saturday, waving signs that read, “The time is now,” attendees echoed the message that immigrant workers want to join in the fight for a voice on the job, good wages and better working conditions. But they can’t speak out and join the fight if they’re denied the basic right to citizenship in the country where they labor in service.

“We have to pull together as a community to make this reform happen,” UDW Executive Director and AFSCME International Vice President Doug Moore said. His fellow International Vice President Johanna Hester pointed out that this effort will come from just such a collaboration. “We are seeing labor joining with our progressive allies, faith-based groups and community members with a new sense of urgency and commitment.”

Also participating were Maria Elena Durazo, chairwoman of the AFL-CIO Immigration Reform Task Force and Lorena Gonzales, Secretary-Treasurer of the Central Labor Council. At a prayer service preceding the rally, immigrants shared their stories of struggle and fear under the current system.

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Paid for by United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund, sponsored by United Domestic Workers of America. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

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