Immigrant rights advocates call for a general strike
‘Day Without Immigrants’ is Monday
A scene from the nine-day march to Wisconsin’s Capitol, earlier this year. Marchers, organized by Voces de la Frontera, demanded immigration reform from the federal government. (Photo | Joe Brusky)
The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera on Tuesday announced plans for a statewide general strike to be held Monday, Oct. 11. The strike and student walkout, part of a series of nationwide days of action beginning on Monday, Indigenous People’s Day, is intended to underscore the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy and pressure congressional Democrats, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to keep a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in their Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill.
One-day “Day Without Immigrants” and “Day Without Latinos” work stoppages have been staged on different dates since 2006 to demonstrate the United States’ economic dependence on undocumented immigrants and call for immigration reform.
“As a movement for civil and labor rights for immigrant workers and their families, we will not accept a repeat of the betrayal of the Obama Administration that promised a path to citizenship but instead delivered more deportations and family separations,” Christine Nuemann Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said in a statement.
“The Obama administration’s failure to lead on immigration helped pave the path for the far right in 2016,” she added.
In a Zoom press conference organized by Voces de la Frontera, Neumann Ortiz, immigrant essential workers, and John Rosenow, a dairy farmer from western Wisconsin, described their plans to participate in the general strike and their hope that Democrats would fight for a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant essential workers, DACA recipients and farmworkers.
“Our community mobilized to get the votes for them to put them in the positions they’re in right now,” Eduardo Perea, an undocumented essential worker who has worked in the United States for more than 30 years, said of Biden and other Democrats. “It’s only fair and just that they fulfill the promises that they made to us on their campaigns.”
After knocking on doors and getting out the vote, immigrants and particularly young people will be “very disillusioned” if the Democrats fail to push for a path to citizenship, said Blanca Cano, who owns a small embroidery business in Waukesha that will be closing for the day on Monday as part of the general strike.
On Sept. 29, the Senate parliamentarian rejected the Biden administration’s $107 billion plan to include a path to citizenship in the budget reconciliation package. Voces is urging Biden and Harris to ignore the parliamentarian’s advice.
“We believe that they are taking the parliamentarian’s advice as an excuse to not do anything,” said Cano. “This is the time. We are here to let them know that we fought a lot for them. They came to our home to tell us that they’re gonna do something for us. And now they are not doing anything. They are just making excuses and excuses. And they know this is the only time that they can make this possible.”
Speaking from his dairy farm in Cochrane, Rosenow pointed out that the dairy industry is one of the largest employers in Wisconsin. “There’s lots of cows out here, so who takes care of them?” he said. “Right now, about 85% of the milk harvested from those cows is by immigrants.” Immigrant workers are “vital to the dairy industry,” he added.
“They’re here 24 hours a day. They work at night. They work on weekends and they work holidays and they work just as hard as I do,” Rosenow said. The fact that Democrats hold the White House and both houses of Congress presents a unique opportunity to finally “get the job done” on immigration reform, he said, “so our guys can have driver’s licenses, they don’t have to live in the shadows. They already are paying all the taxes; they already are participating in the economy — they’re keeping local restaurants and local food places supplied. I mean, they’re a part of our existence, and I can’t think of anybody I would rather have as a neighbor than the immigrants that I know.”
Rosenow and other dairy farmers are going to operate with a skeleton crew on Monday, planning in advance for the “day without Latinos,” which would be “disastrous” if it happened spontaneously, he added. “The cows do not need to suffer and they won’t,” he said. “I know our guys will be here at 4 in the morning to milk the cows and they’ll be here at midnight. … They’re the backbone of the dairy industry, and we really appreciate it.”
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