Guest Voz

Guest Voz: A reflection on 15 years of Immigrant Day in California

Guest Voz: A reflection on 15 years of Immigrant Day in California

LatinaLista -- Tomorrow, May 24, 2011, California celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of Immigrant Day. A project of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), the day is set aside to bring a unified voice of immigrants and advocates to California's State Capitol to show support of policies that advance immigrant integration and prosperity for all Californians.

immigrant day.jpg

Angie Wei, legislative director for the California Labor Federation, shares her memories of that first Immigrant Day, what has been accomplished and what more is left to do.

 

By Angie Wei

Fifteen years ago, on the first Immigrant Day in Sacramento, I remember standing on the Capitol steps. I stood there worried, what if no one showed up?

That fear melted away as I saw a group of Hmong immigrants approach the Capitol from one side. Then I turned to see Russian immigrants approaching from another side, Latinas from across the street, and so many other communities converging on the capitol. We were impressive.

As we prepared our advocates for the first-ever Immigrant Day, I recall working with my fellow leaders and deciding to scrap our formal talking points and encourage our allies instead to speak from their heart-to share their stories.

The legislative response was overwhelmingly positive and we've tried to take that approach ever since. When we talk about the real immigrant experience and share ways to make California a better place for everyone, we win.

Advocating for immigrants fifteen years ago required great courage from communities around the state. Back then we were fighting the anti-immigrant policies of Pete Wilson.

We worked together to push back as Congress turned its back on immigrants, denying food stamps and SSI and health care benefits to documented and undocumented immigrants.

California, home to nearly half of the nation's immigrants, had to respond and restore this safety net for those who needed it most. We faced a very hostile climate and were fighting against ignorant and regressive policies.

Today, the challenges before us are of a very different nature. Despite overheated rhetoric from our opponents, we have the opportunity to push a forward-looking, progressive and proactive agenda.

This year, we're advocating for the DREAM Act, which helps eliminate barriers for students seeking to access higher education. We have come a long way from Prop 187, but we still have a ways to go.

Immigrants have fundamentally reshaped California and have had a positive impact on our state. We create jobs, we help build the new economy, and we provide the core of our state's community, civic and economic life. It was when the national AFL-CIO officially changed its policies on immigrant workers embraced this value, and focused on organizing immigrant workers that I wanted to join the Labor Movement.

Fifteen years ago, I was no less certain that we were on the right track than I am today. We may have been a bit frightened about the challenges facing immigrant communities in 1996, but we found that by building a movement, standing up for ourselves and not being afraid of the consequences, we could fundamentally alter our future and the future of California for the better.

I am so proud to have played a small role in making this a reality.

Looking forward, we have the responsibility to lead the way and spread the message that we are all in this together.

We can encourage and engage our opponents to move beyond the fear mongering and have a real conversation about how we build One California consisting of many peoples.

Together we can improve the labor market and create jobs, together we can promote health and safety in our workplace, and together we can create a California that works for all of us.


Angie Wei is the legislative director for the California Labor Federation.

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Guest Voz

More in Guest Voz

cristela-title

Guest Voz: It’s Up to You — Does Cristela Go or Not!

Latina ListaApril 20, 2015
o-LATINA-GENDER-WAGE-GAP-facebook

Guest Voz: Women of Color and the Gender Wage Gap (Video)

Latina ListaApril 14, 2015
Family late 50s

Guest Voz — AT&T’s President & CEO of Mobile & Business Solutions, Ralph de la Vega: Obstacles Are Opportunities in Disguise

Latina ListaApril 13, 2015
minority

Guest Voz: Cancer hits Blacks and Latinos harder

Latina ListaApril 10, 2015
9341923448_f8383f82b4_b

Guest Voz: It’s possible to unlearn racism

Latina ListaApril 8, 2015
1965069_10153204788713566_1082411767300878157_n

Guest Voz: An open letter to Starbucks and USA Today

Latina ListaMarch 18, 2015
o-LATINO-WORKERS-facebook

Guest Voz: Employment for Latinos comes back to life

Latina ListaMarch 16, 2015
B9316374215Z.1_20150224133323_000_G9OA24MVO.1-0

Guest Voz: Women’s History Month must honor Latinas

Latina ListaMarch 6, 2015
Obamacare:  Healthcare Reform in the United States

Guest Voz: Fewer excuses for Latinos to be uninsured thanks to Obamacare

Latina ListaFebruary 6, 2015