On the Shoulders of Illegal Forefathers

Thousands Protest Proposed Immigration Law

At least 2,000 people came out in the rain last Saturday to
oppose HR4437, the draconian immigration bill under consideration
by the Senate. Chanting protesters marched from De la Guerra Plaza
to Alameda Park, where they listened to speeches for another hour.
Passed by the House of Representatives last December, the bill
emphasizes stringent border enforcement and criminalization of
undocumented workers.

At Alameda Park, Yolanda Medina and Margarita Guerrera, legal
residents who have worked at Mission Linen for 25 years and 29
years respectively, came out with other members of their
congregation from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “We are helping
those who do not have documents,” said Medina. “They are not here
to commit crimes,” added Guerrera. “They are here to work.”

North County PUEBLO organizer Raphaela Moreno screamed into the
microphone, “This is a political action,” urging undocumented
workers to let their voices be heard and reminding them that
politics does not necessarily equal corruption. Organized by
PUEBLO, the Santa Barbara march coincided with national
demonstrations including a Los Angeles rally that drew a reported
500,000 people and was followed by further demonstrations Sunday in
which demonstrators shut down Los Angeles freeways. At a
Washington, D.C. rally several days prior, farm owners were among
those protesting bills that focused on stricter border control.

Terri Bontrager, executive director of the Santa Barbara Farm
Bureau, estimated that tougher border enforcement measures had
already reduced the farm workforce by 20 percent or more. Bontrager
noted that it keeps getting harder to cross the border. “We have
workers who haven’t been home for four or five years,” Bontrager
said, including husbands and wives whose children are being raised
by relatives in Mexico. American farmers, meanwhile, endure spot
labor shortages; harvests suffer when the migrant workers whom
farmers rely on are unavailable when crops are ready. “We are going
to have foreigners picking our fruit,” said Bontrager. “Either here
or in China. I’m not saying other countries don’t pick beautiful
crops — they do — but we don’t know what pesticides [they

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced a bill less
prohibitive than HR4437 (see commentary by Nelson Harvey on p. 23)
but the immigration debate was hardly resolved. Doug Mosebar, a
Santa Ynez farmer and president of the Santa Barbara Farm Bureau
Federation, published a letter on the organization’s Web site
(www.cfbf.com) urging agriculturalists to pressure Washington for
guest worker legislation that would allow farmworkers to easily
renew their temporary status and to travel freely between the U.S.
and their countries of origin.


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