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

latino_vote_110210-thumb-640xauto-1468

Guest Voz: Treat Latinos, and all voters, with respect to boost turnout

Latina ListaJune 29, 2015
1200x760

Guest Voz: Minimum wage hike necessary but not sufficient to close Latino wealth gap

Latina ListaJune 15, 2015
15fri1webSUB-superJumbo

Guest Voz: Welcome to Dilley, TX: Home of the largest family detention center in the world

Latina ListaJune 5, 2015
povertyday

Guest Voz: An anti-poverty movement doesn’t look like what you think

Latina ListaMay 28, 2015
AP343426344912-620

Guest Voz: Congress’ Bed Quota Traps LGBT Immigrants in Detention

Latina ListaMay 27, 2015
sexualassault2

Guest Voz: Sexual assault hits Latina survivors hard without culturally relevant support

Latina ListaMay 26, 2015
NY_RUNAWAYS_PROSTITUTION_1_33195905

Guest Voz: Former criminal judge — Rehabilitation is the key to turning lives around

Latina ListaMay 22, 2015
collegestudent

Guest Voz: How do I go on DREAMing when Mexican gov’t says my U.S. college education is worthless

Latina ListaMay 18, 2015
20100102060348

Guest Voz: Colombia’s rampant racism deserves a national spotlight and international awareness

Latina ListaMay 11, 2015