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  • Edición impresa de Abril 17, 2018.

SALINAS FARM WORKERS MARCH TO OPPOSE IMMIGRATION RAIDS

In Salinas, California, on Sunday, over a thousand farm workers and allies filled the streets of its working-class barrio to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including an increase in immigration raids that, according to United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, are “striking terror in rural communities across California and the nation.” It was one of six marches taking place this month in agricultural communities around California, Texas, and Washington state.  

The marches, which also commemorated the birthday of UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez follow several months of UFW activity opposing immigration enforcement, and organizing workers to defend themselves against it. The union has distributed flyers in the fields that tell workers, “Don’t sign anything and demand to speak with a lawyer. Take photographs, videos, and notes about what happens, including names, and license plates.” It lists a toll-free number to call for help.  

Organizers are advised by the UFW Foundation to tell employers that ICE cannot enter the private area of their business without a signed judicial warrant, that in I-9 audits, employers have 3 work days to produce the forms, and that employers also have the right to speak to an attorney before answering questions or signing ICE documents.
«Do growers who supported and financed the campaign that put Donald Trump in office condone the climate of fear that is gripping farm worker communities?» a union statement asks. It points out that growers are currently supporting bills in Congress to remove protections from guest workers recruited in Mexico. «Such legislative schemes are aimed at driving down the wages and working conditions of all agricultural workers. We will fight them.»

The Center for Immigration Studies, an arm of the anti-immigrant lobby in Washington, D.C., used Cesar Chavez› birthday to announce the launch of National Border Control Day «in tribute to the late labor leader and civil rights icon›s forceful opposition to illegal immigration and support for strong border enforcement.»
UFW spokesperson Marc Grossman called that «an abomination.» A UFW statement in response said, «There are two separate and distinct issues - immigration reform and strikebreaking.» The union had a controversial history of trying to use immigration enforcement to remove undocumented strikebreakers in strikes during the late 1960s and ‹70s, but the statement says that from the first grape strike «the UFW welcomed all farm workers into its ranks, regardless of immigration status.»

It noted that the union opposed employer sanctions, which made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work, and lobbied for the amnesty provision in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that enabled one million undocumented farm workers to become legal residents. Given that the union’s membership reflects the composition of farm workers generally, most of whom have no papers according to Farmworker Justice, a farm worker advocacy group in Washington DC, it is possible that a majority of the union’s members are undocumented.  

According to Rodriguez, protesting immigration enforcement is part of defending farm laborers generally, both union and non-union. At the Salinas rally, Rodriguez told workers and supporters «Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia Porfecto, and their six orphaned children, are casualties of the Trump administration›s targeting of hardworking immigrant farm workers who toil and sacrifice to feed all of us.»

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