Gerrardo came here from Mexico nearly 20 years ago. He has three children (the oldest is 14, and the youngest is 2), and when he talks about his good union job painting homes and buildings in the Oakland area, he beams with pride. For Gerrardo, having a secure job where he can earn enough to take care of his family is what the American Dream is all about — and he wants other families to have those same opportunities as well.
Yesterday, as Gerrardo marched alongside thousands of other immigrant workers, students, advocates, supporters and families with small children at the May Day march in East Oakland, he described what motivated him to take to the streets:
These hardworking people need support, and this is the time to support them. They should have the same rights as everybody else! They have been waiting a lot of years for immigration reform, and we’ve come here to say, Now is the time!
Gerrardo’s feelings were echoed by thousands of other activists all across the state and country who came out to May Day immigration reform events in hundreds of communities. In San Jose, the crowd of more than 5,000 marched to City Hall, where they spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and other vital protections for the millions of aspiring US citizens.
South Bay Labor Council leader Ben Field told the May Day marchers:
When we say ‘The People United Will Never be Defeated,’ we mean ALL the people of this community, not just citizens. We cannot have a just society without a fair immigration system. That means a roadmap to citizenship, an end to the policy of breaking apart families and protections for immigrant workers.
Many of the marchers, including children, wore butterfly wings and held signs that said, “Migration is beautiful.” One of the San Francisco rally attendees, Jose Ivan Arreola, 25, came to the U.S. from Mexico and now advocates for DREAM Act students who were brought into the country as young children.
All we're asking for is that immigrants to be recognized as equals, as human beings, and are provided a pathway to citizenship. And I think our values as a country will uphold that.
Down in southern California, the Orange County Labor Federation spear-headed a spirited march from Anaheim City Hall to La Palma Park. View photos from the OC event here.
Orange County Labor Federation Executive Director Tefere Gebre:
The Orange County Labor Movement is united to bring justice to 11 million hard-working immigrants who live in the shadows, unable to speak out for themselves or to fully participate in their communities for fear of being separated from their loved ones or deported.
The Los Angeles rally was reported to be the largest in the state, and featured live performances by the Grammy nominated band “La Santa Cecilia” and the Grammy Award winning band “Quetzal.” View photos from the LA event here.
Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Chair of the National AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee:
I was happy to see unions that never before marched with us on May Day joining in the fight for immigrant workers’ rights. It shows the momentum we have built for immigration reform … the battle is far from over. We have a bill, but much remains to be done. We will keep visiting legislators, rallying, and educating voters on the issue of immigration reform.
Labor-backed May Day actions also took place in Fresno, Sacramento, Salinas, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Watsonville. Check out media coverage from across the state:
L.A. Times (also here)