Next Steps in Immigration Reform
As talk of immigration reform dominated the new Congress, Duane Campbell conducted separate interviews with DSA Honorary Chair Eliseo Medina (former secretary treasurer of SEIU and former Executive Board member of the United Farm Workers) and immigrant rights activist Alma Lopez.
From November 12 until December 2, 2013, Medina and hundreds more participated in a Fast for Families, setting up tents on the Washington Mall to engage the nation and Congress in issues of immigration reform. Politicians, union leaders, community activists, and faith leaders, from Jim Wallace of Sojourners to Barack Obama, stopped by to talk, listen, and provide support. Medina fasted for twenty-two days, taking only water.
Here, Medina explains the need for broad coalitions and public education.--Ed.
DC: What did the Fast for Families accomplish?
EM: It was one of the most exciting transformative, and spiritual events I have participated in many, many years. We had a microcosm of America: labor leaders, church leaders, students, immigrants, local and community leaders, men and women, people of faith and of all races and ethnic groups. This diverse group came together sharing one central value: that in America we believe in treating people fairly, in rewarding hard work, and in respecting human and workers’ rights.
Our goal was to reach out and explain to America the moral crisis facing this country, because people are dying every day on the border and thousands of families are being broken up by our current immigration policies. We need the American people express their voices. And second, we wanted to reach out to members of Congress, to touch their hearts, to tell them we need to fix this problem.
The fast and the support demonstrations put immigration reform back on the national agenda.
DC: What is your sense now of where immigration reform is going in the Congress?
EM: Prior to the fast we had a stalemate in Congress. But now the discussion is not if we will have immigration reform, but when will we have reform and what will it look like. I am very hopeful.
DC: What can progressives and DSA activists do to help?
EM: This is a critical issue for progressive America. Are we going to have eleven million people here without workers’ rights and human rights [a situation that] undermines the rights of us all? Congress has to do what it was elected to do: to fix problems.
I would say to fellow DSAers, “We have to understand that this is not only a Latino issue. This is the civil rights movement of our times. This is your chance to get involved. The immigration fight is everybody’s fight. The civil rights movement [of the fifties and sixties] created a whole new dynamic in this country, and so can this. This is our moment. This is the time to get engaged."
Our focus now will be a congressional tour from the end of February until the end of April. We need you to help with the bus tour to congressional districts and to organize community meetings. Go to the web page Fast4Families.org for talking points and for how and where to help.
The interview with Alma Lopez will appear on a future date. Both will appear in the Spring edition of Democratic Left.
Duane Campbell is a professor emeritus of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and chair of Sacramento DSA. He has worked on immigration reform issues for more than thirty years.
Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.