The Fundamental Question

What matters more… how you came to America or what you did after you got here?

I came to America when I was 3-years old.  My mother brought me and my brother here from Mexico. We didn’t have legal documents.

Should I be judged based on how I got here or on what I’ve done since then.

My family worked hard.  My family sent us to school.  My family raised us to care about others.

Today, I am the first Labor Council leader with that story.  I have dedicated my life to helping working families – all kinds of families… those whose ancestors came on slave ships, those who piled on steam powered ships to reach Ellis Island, those who escaped the famine in Ireland, those who came to build America’s railroads, those dug the coal and harvest the crops.

We are America’s greatest source of renewable energy…people who renew the American Dream.

We are the original American start-ups and start-overs.  We are the believers.

The risk takers, the taxpayers, the shop owners.

And while it’s tempting for some to see these issues as partisan… my life proves that’s not true… President Reagan included me and my family in his amnesty…and Democrats were the ones who took away drivers licenses from my friends and neighbors.

But Donald Trump is uniquely evil.  He doesn’t know the history of the country he is supposed to lead.  The Continental Army didn’t take over the airports in the America Revolution and immigrants aren’t taking anything today.   We are givers, not takers.  We give our hope and work and energy and values to the ever-changing American story.

Donald Trump is dishonest.  He rabble-rouses his supporters to attack immigrants while he hires people without legal documents to clean the toilets and cut the grass at his golf courses…and then he them rounds up, puts them into camps…and gives speeches using them as applause lines.

Let’s be clear.  Trump uses the word “raid” to suggest that immigrants are like the criminals who helped him get elected – Manafort’s house was raided, so was Cohen’s and Stone’s.

In the 1930’s, the United States rounded up and illegally deported 600,000 people just because they were of Mexican heritage.  Citizens and legal immigrants.  That decade of betrayal is no longer just a dark chapter in America’s history…it is the present.

In 2020, we must change history, not repeat it.

Liz Ortega is the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO