Washington, DC—Four UFCW activists were among those arrested yesterday outside the U.S. Capitol while protesting the failure of House Republican leaders to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The march, which included tens of thousands of people from across the country, followed over 180 similar actions in 40 states this weekend.
“Today we sent a message to House Republicans loud and clear,” UFCW President Joe Hansen said. “First and foremost, open this government. Secondly, once it is open, give us a vote on comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”
In an op-ed in the Huffington Post last week, Hansen laid out the case for reform. “We want to give aspiring citizens an opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” he said. “We want full rights and protections for immigrant workers. We want fairness and justice. We want an immigration policy that reflects our values. Speaker Boehner, we want a vote.”
The UFCW activists who were arrested spoke about the power of civil disobedience and the importance of standing together for comprehensive immigration reform.
Efrain Aguilera of UFCW Local 5 in San Jose, CA said: “I’m a Hispanic born in Michoacán, Mexico who came to this country legally but without knowing a word of English. The immigrant community has to struggle to find work and when it does, they face humiliation because of being undocumented and live in fear of being deported and separated from their families. Getting arrested for civil disobedience is the least I can do to support this great cause. We need comprehensive immigration reform now so that more than 11 million undocumented immigrants can get out of the shadows, work legally, pay taxes and stop being treated like second class citizens.”
Rigo Valdez of UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, CA said: “I was arrested today to stand up for the workers who cannot stand up for themselves. In twenty years of organizing, I have witnessed exploitation of workers because of their immigration status. We can no longer allow the abuse of any workers in our country, and must fight and demand that all of us are treated with dignity and according to our rights. Comprehensive immigration reform is not only morally right, but necessary to guarantee the long term economic and social health of our nation. If our lawmakers will not act, then we will.”
Celestino Rivera of UFCW Local 540 in Dallas, TX said: “I was arrested today because I stand with America’s meatpacking and food processing workers to demand that Congress fix our broken immigration system. I have witnessed the price of keeping working families in the shadows. All workers should be able to exercise their fundamental rights on the job, regardless of immigration status. Now is the time for reform that preserves and protects these rights.”
Idalid Guerrero of UFCW Local 540 in Dallas, TX said: “I came to Washington today as both a worker and a mother. I know firsthand that women bear a huge burden because of our broken immigration system. We deserve reform that is humane and just and keeps families together. I was arrested in solidarity with all immigrant women who are calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform now.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.