[applause] >> so, first, i want to deal with the language question here. so who here speaks english? okay. [speaking spanish] well, that's a tie. so we need to do a little translation for -- spur spanish. [speaking spanish] >> [inaudible] >> okay. [speaking spanish] before getting started, first of all, i want to thank the professor and institute for mexican studies and the center
for latino, latin america and caribbean studies here at cny for organizing the event today and say, you know, i think it's a sign of what's happened to new york that there is an institute for mexican studies in new york city. i was born in new york city, and i at one point married somebody who was a girl in new york city here when she was very young, and she remembers that when her family wanted to buy tortillas, that you had to buy them in a can. there were so few people from mexico living in new york city, there were to to have -- there were no to have tortillas. now what's the name for new york? i think we'll talk a little bit about what's happening and why that is, but i want to say i'm
very happy to be speaking in connection with the institute for pension can studies here and -- mexican studies here and how meaningful it is for me and, also, i think for new york city as a whole that we have it. i'm a photographer, so i'm going to show you photographs while i'm speaking tonight. they don't have any complicated captions, so you don't have to worry about having to read them. but it's just so that we can see that we're talking about people and kind of get what i call the reality check. so, let's see, i have to kind of do it like this because i have to keep track. i'm going to start by telling you a story about something that happened in los angeles a few years ago. a group of health activists set
up a kind of sidewalk clinic for day laborers, to test day laborers for hiv. and so a young man, omar sierra, was on the street corner that day, and he went to the clinic and sat down in the chair, and the nurse who was at the clinic, she tied him off and inserted the needle to draw his blood, and all of a sudden everybody saw these border patrol agents coming across the street. and so, of course, everybody ran. and omar, he tore off the tourniquet, and he pulled out the needle, and he got up, and he ran just like everybody else. and omar, he was lucky because he got away that a day. but a lot of his friends didn't. and so he went home, and he was very upset by what had happened
and what had happened to his friends, and he wanted to remember what had taken place at that clinic that day. and so he wrote a song. and i'm not a good singer, so i'm not going to sing it to you, but i am going to tell you kind of what some of the words were because i think they're very meaningful. he said, or he sang: i'm going to sing you a story, friends, that will make you cry. how one day in front of kmart, the megra came down on us, sent by the sheriff of this very same place. we don't understand why, we don't know the reason why there is so much discrimination against us. in the end, we'll wind up all the same, in the grave. and the song ends, he says: with this verse i leave you, i'm tired of singing. hoping the megra won't come after us again because, in the
end, we all have to work. he said it so simply, but it's such a true statement. it's such a expression of reality. this was not that long ago, but since then it's gone t a lot worse. it's gotten a lot worse. also in los angeles not too long afterwards, the megra arrived at a factory called microsolutions, and so the immigration agents went into the company dining room where the company had called all the workers together. and so they said, okay, if you're a citizen, go over to that side of the room. and so all the citizens went over to that side of the room. and then they said if you have a green card or a visa, you go over there too. and so then all of those people went over to that side of the room. and so as one of the workers later told me, that just left us. and so the "us," the people who didn't have any visa and who weren't citizens, they were put into vans, and they were taken
off to the megra jail. and some of the women who were there were released eventually to take care of their kids, but they had to wear ankle bracelets like this, and they couldn't work. so how were they supposed to pay the rent? how or were they supposed to buy food for the kids who they were supposedly being released to take care of? a few years ago the megra agents, immigration and customs enforcement, they went out to the meat packing plant belonging to agriprocessers, a company in iowa, and there they picked up 388 young people from guatemala, and they sent them to prison, to federal prison, for fife months for the -- five months and then deported them immediately afterwards. and here also women like maria here were released to care for their children, but with the ankle bracelet they couldn't live postville, this tiny little
town in iowa. their husbands and their brothers had been picked up and sent to prison and deported. if it hadn't been for the parishers in the catholic church in postville who found a house for the women to live in and who collected money and food for them so they could eat, they would have gone homeless and hungry. now they say this is just happening to illegals. now, i know this is a bad word, but this is what's used to excuse be or make politically acceptable what we've just been talking about.
>> every year about 360,000 people spend some time or other in a privately-run detention center for immigrants. now, what's the real name of a privately-run detention center for immigrants? that's a euphemism. what should we really call it? what is it? it's a prison, right? so the border between the u.s. and mexico is like an armed camp. it's patrolled by 20,000 border
patrol agents. the united states is spending more money on immigration enforcement than all of the other enforcement activities the united states government combined. in other words, more than the fbi plus the dea plus the alcohol of tobacco and firearms, all of that together is less money than just the immigration enforcement by itself. and now we have a bill this congress that's being called the liberal reform that's going to double the number of agents to 40,000. that's like a small army. and it's going to spend $47 billion over ten years on more enforcement. and this is while i don't know what life is like here in new york, maybe everything is hunky dory here, but in california we're closing schools, and we're laying off teachers, and that's happening in chicago and detroit and philadelphia. we don't have any money. detroit says it's broke, and we're going to spend $47 billion on this. now, immigration authorities are implementing a system for
checking the legal status of workers which is an electronic database that's called e-verify. so people who are working with bad social security numbers, they get fired. so not too long ago 3,000 young -- 2,000 young womens and sewing machines in los angeles working for american apparel were fired. 1200 janitors cleaning buildings in minneapolis were fired. in the bay area where i live, 475 janitors cleaning the bullings in downtown san francisco were fired. i was just in boston, they were telling me about people being picked up and fired in factories in boston, too, and i'm sure it's happening in new york, here as well. right before the senate passed the bill, senate bill 744, in june they put into it a piece that says that this system for firing workers -- in other words, the e-verify system to
identify people and then fire them -- has to be 100% implemented in every workplace in the united states within four years, or the legalization program which is what is in that bill for us will stop. now, the workers we're talking about, you know, these are people who are working, they're supporting their familyings. a lot of them are union members, in fact, i would say probably most people who are losing their jobs this way are union members. the jobs are not the sweat shop jobs, these are the ones that actually pay enough so that you can send your kid to the university. and now what's happening is they're pushing people onto the sidewalk where nobody asks for papers, that's true, but where the wages are only half of what people were making before. so what happens is that people lose their homes, and they lose their cars, and their kids have to stop going to school. you know, this is pushing down their standard of living, but
it's also pushing down the standard of living for everybody. and why is the happening? this happening? michael chertoff, bush's secretary of homeland security, he told us over and over again in so many words, he said there is an obvious solution to the problem of illegal work which is you open the front door, and you shut the back door. what he means is that he wants people to come to the united states as -- [inaudible] he wants people to come here as contract laborers who get hired in other countries and then come here with visas that say that you have to work to stay. and in order to make people do that, what happens is he closes the back door by picking you up at work, getting your employer to fire you or out on the sidewalk or arresting you while you're trying to cross the desert and throwing you into one of those detention centers. and the government is calling all of these things crime.
that's the message of deporting 400,000 people a year. if you want to come, you must come as a worker. i'm deliberately using that word was it's a very -- because it's a very loaded word, but it describes reality. in other words, we're using euphemisms, and we ought to start using the real words that describe it. so e-verify, this system is the same kind of solution because what it says is if you don't have any papers, it's a crime to work. so -- [speaking spanish] you stand out on the street corner, and the truck stops, and you get in. and you work all day in the sun until you're so tired you can hardly get back to your room, and that's a crime. and you do this to send money home to your family and the people who are depending on you. and that's a crime too. so let me ask you, how many criminals do we have like this? how many people are committing this crime?
you know, they say that there are 11 million people living in the united states that don't have any papers, right? that's a lot of criminals. but, you know, it's not just here. it's not just in the united states. we're talking about people who are going from morocco to spain or from turkey to germany or from jamaica to london. or from the philippines to japan and south korea or into the gulf. if all of the world's undocumented people and contract lay worers -- laborers got together in one place, there would be enough people for ten hex coe cities or 15 cities the size of los angeles. you know, the u.n. and the world bank, they say that there are 213 million people in the world today who are living outside the countries where they were born. twenty years ago it was 155 million people. so the number is growing, and it's growing very fast. that's an increase in 58 million
people over 20 years. now, the united states is home to a large firm of those folks -- large number of those folks, 42 million people in 2010 in the united states were people who were born in some other country. but that was up from 23 million people 20 years before that. so in other words, the number here doubled. and that increase coincided by no accident at all with the period in which the north american free trade agreement went into effect, and all of these neoliberal economic reforms were being caroled out in the countries -- carried out in the countries which are overwhelmingly the source of migration to the united states. so if working is a crime, then workers are criminals, right? and if workers become criminals -- this is the justification for it -- if workers become criminals and work is a crime, people will go home. so if you're my age, you remember cheech and chong,
right? you remember that scene in one of their movies where everybody was sort of lined up on the other side of the border in tijuana, you know? a few hundred people waiting for the right moment, and then somebody gives the signal, and everybody rushes across the border at the same time, and there's so many people that the border patrol can't catch everybody, so some people make it across? it's a very funny scene. so do you see hundreds of people lined up in san diego and sannie si doe ready for the signal to rush back into mexico? how come? if all of this terrible repression is going on? because there's no job for people to go home to. since 1994, 8 million people from mexico have come to live here in the united states. in 1994, the year that nafta went into effect, there were about 4.6 million people born in
mexico who were living here in the united states. in 2008 that number peaked at 12.6 million people. at about 5.7 million, they were able to get some kind of visa to get here which meant that another seven million people that couldn't but came anyway. 11% of the population of mexico lives here, north of the border. what's the largest safl dohrn city in the world, el salvador? los angeles, right? there are so many people from guatemala living in los angeles, that there is a neighborhood that's called little -- [inaudible] [speaking spanish] and if you remember the history of the civil war and in guatemala, that was the scene of the worst massacre by the salvadoran army -- b by the guatemalan army, i'm sorry, during the civil war. so those people lift guatemala, they migrated through mexico into the united states, and the number was so large that they
have the community that they've named after their hometown. today the remittances that people are sending home is the largest source of national income in el salvador. in mexico, where is that? every year, i think in 2008 it got to be $30 billion and then it went down a little bit because there was a recession, and now it's going up again. so it's an enormous amount of money. people are coming today from the most remote parts of hex coe where people -- mexico where people are still speaking languages that were old when kilometer bus got here. [speaking spanish] so what has produced this migration? thinking about oaxaca, for instance. it's the same thing -- the same thing that produced the migration, the same thing that created a situation in whether there is virtually no community in mexico that has not basically
experience appearanced migration of at least some people to the united states, it's the same thing that has also led to, for instance, the closure of factories here in new york city. the north american free trade agreement. one of the things it did was it let u.s. companies sell corn in mexico for a price that was lower than what it cost farmers there to grow it. so those few u.s. companies, archer daniels midland, carr gill, we subsidize them in the farm bill. $2 billion in grain subsidies. that's money out of our pocket, u.s. taxpayer money, and it subsidizes their cost of producing. so they were able to go to mexico, and they were able to sell corn in mexico at 19% below their cost of production. and so u.s. corn exports to mexico went from two million to ten million tons from 1992 to
2008. pork. the price of pork in mexico of after nafta passed dropped 56%. mexico imported 30,000 tons of pork in 1995, in 2010 it was 8 811,000 tons of pork. the price of meat in supermarkets in mexico, did it go down? no. no. but one company, smithfield foods from the united states, now sells one out of every meal of pork meat eaten by a family living in mexico, 25% of the market in mexico. and as a result of that, mexico lost over 120,000 jobs of people who work on farms raising pigs or who work in slaughterhouses cutting them up. and the systems in mexico that
mexico had back in the '60s and the '50s that were designed to help real farmers survive, that bought tobacco from small tobacco farcers -- farmers in states like vera cruz that were designed to people people farming, or this was a national coffee-buying enterprise or the stores that would buy up corn at subsidized prices from farmers and then turn it into tortillas and sell it at lower prices in state-run stores in mexico basically to benefit poor people, they were all declared, all these organizations were declared illegal under nafta. restraints of trade. another thing that contributed to migration -- [speaking spanish] where the mexican revolution really actually started. miners were on strike until last
year for tour years to stop -- for four years to stop a huge multi-national corporation from eliminating their jobs and busting their unions. now when they lost that strike and the border was only 50 miles away -- and there's no other job, this is a tiny up to in the middle of the mountains in so nor rah, what do you expect people to do? or better put, where are they going to go to survive? when the mexican government fired 44,000 electrical workers and said that the company of light and power in mexico city no longer existed in order to bust their union which is basically preparing the ground for the privatization of electrical services in mexico, 44,000 people lost their jobs, what are they going to do? where are they going to go? in other words, the lack of labor rights -- and you combine it with economic reforms to benefit large investors and corporations, that's the source
of the pressure for migration too. and then there's environmental contamination. in vera cruz smithfield took a beautiful desert valley, and they turned it into an ecological disaster by building the world's large pig farm complex. so this is the first story that gets told in the book there. so let me just tell you a little bit. it says on some warm nights -- this is the story of -- [inaudible] -- on some warm nights fausto's children wake up and vomit from the smell. he puts his wife, his two with sons and daughter into his beat-up pickup truck, and they drive away from his farm until they can breathe the air without getting sick. and then he parks his truck, and they sleep in it for the rest of the night. until the beginning of 2011, his mother went with them, and then her kidneys failed, and she died. they've all had kidney ailments, and they kept taking medicine
for it until finally a doctor told them to stop drinking the water from the farm's well. ask once they stopped -- and once they stopped drinking the water from the well, the infections stopped, too, because smithfield had contaminated the whole aquifer under the valley there. less than a mile from his house is one of the many big pig farms that were built by smithfield there. and one of the problems of pig farms is that, you know, you feed the pigs the food, but then the pigs have the waste s. that waste is collected in ponds like that out behind there. and those ponds become the source of all the smell, but also of flies, of rats, of, you know, very severe contamination. actually, in 2010 smithfield had built 80 of these complex, each of them with 20,000 hogs in it. that's where the swine flu started. we're not supposed to call it the swine flu. president obama told us we must call it the h1n1 virus.
that was a gift to smithfield, basically. because what it was was trying to cover up where it started, which was in the valley. the first children to get sick from it were will. so, of course, people in the valley resisted. you know, ranchers, they started resisting when those construction crews would come out to build new ones. they would surround the construction crews, and the police would have to come and rescue the construction crew, and then the police would come back, and mysteriously all the construction for the materials had vanished. one of the teachers in this town, she told me that her students were telling her that riding to school on the school bus was like riding in a toilet. so she started writing leaflets about this and passing them out, and smithfield started charging her and those farmers who were fighting about it with defamation, a criminal charge in mexico. they kept, smithfield kept them in court for two years, and the crime was telling people about
what the conditions were in the valley that smithfield had caused. so this is also part of what produces migration. the book tells the story, it has a lot of stories in it of people speaking in their own words. and so this is one who actually went to work for smithfield in north carolina but came from a part of vera cruz that's very close to the valley. and what he says is this. he says: the free trade agreement was the cause of our problems. they were just paying as little to farmers as they could. when the prices went up, no one had any money to pay. after the crisis, we couldn't pay for electricity, we just used candles at home. but when you see your parents don't have any money, that's when you decide to come to help them. and the ranches where we lived, coyotes would come by offering to take us north. i was 18 years old in 1999 when we started thinking about how to
come to the u.s. we'd look at what we had, and it didn't add up to much. so my parents sold four cows and ten acres of land for the money to get to the border, and then i walked across the river into texas and walked through the mountains for two day is the and three nights. he says the coyote cost $1200. you know that's a long time ago now because the price to get taken across the border today is more in the neighborhood of $5 or $6,000. but he says $1200. i couldn't work for three months. i was desperate and afraid of what would happen if i couldn't pay. i had to stay and work in texas until i paid him off, and then some friends told me to go to north carolina to harvest tobacco. in vera cruz we'd heard that there was a slaughterhouse there. while i was working in tobacco, friends gave me a hand, and wiz hired. i was hired. they all came from the area near where i lived. lots of people from very a cruz
worked at smithfield. so nafta and the u.s. and the mexican governments basically helped big companies -- smithfield was just one of them -- get rich by keeping wages low or by giving them subsidies and then letting them push farmers into bankruptcy. but that's also why it's so hard for families to survive, because of those same low wages or because people can't farm, or you get laid off from your job when your company is cutting costs or your factory gets privatized or your union gets busted. so they said nafta was going to lead to at least cheap food prices because cheap corn was going to flood the market in mexico, and the price of tortillas instead has gone up three times from what it was in 1994 which is great for a monopoly producer of food in mexico and, of course, or it's great for mexico's largest retailer today which is who? walmart, right. but if you can't afford to buy those to have tortillas, well, o
where you can buy them. now, they said that an economy of -- [speaking spanish] and low wages, at least it would produce jobs on the boarder, because foreign companies would come, build factories, and people would go to work. but today if you go to -- [inaudible] or juarez or tijuana, what you see really is that hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs because when the recession began here, we stopped buying what those factories were producing, and then people got laid off. now, the wages of workers in the -- [inaudible] are so low that you have to work for half a day just to buy a gallon of milk. most workers live in communities that look like this, cardboard houses or houses that are built from materials that that are essentially cast off from the factories on streets with no pavement, and that's when people are working. so when people lose their jobs and the border is just a little bit north, what do you think people are going to do?
if this were where you lived and this was your family, what would you do? where would you go? i don't think there's a single person in this room who can say you wouldn't do whatever it takes for your family to survive, because we all love our families. and that's the choice people are having to make. and so when people are not happy about this and people protest, then what happens is the companies and the government bringing the police and the army. people get beaten. the way the teachers were in oaxaca in 2006. after they brought the army into oaxaca and suppressed the strike and they filled the jails, how many more people do you think came to the united states as a result of that? and today teachers are on strike again all over mexico. last week, the end of the week, they used almost 4,000 police to drive the teachers, section 22, out of the --
[inaudible] in mexico city. and strikes, you know, most schools, most parts of mexico haven't opened yet because the teachers are protesting over the education reform program that was originated here, actually. another u.s. export. we are exporting, you know, bill gates and melinda gates' education reform model to mexico. usaid is setting up business groups for education reform. now, i'm not saying they don't have people in mexico who are very happy to cooperate in that. claudio gonzalez, who is one of the richest men in mexico, is the head of, you know, what is the name of the mexican education reform organization? [speaking spanish] i think it's something hike that. at any rate, but that's where this is coming from. and why are teachers upset? it's not just because people that their own jobs are in danger -- which is true.
and it's not also just because they don't want standardized testing for their own kids and their own schools, but it's also because people are unhappy because there are so little alternatives to the kids that you have in your classes in school. and the most active and organized teachers i think in mexico are the ones from oaxaca. so here are the statistics from oaxaca that are making teachers unhappy. this is one of the states that's sending -- or this, oaxaca's sending among the largest number of migrants to the u.s. today. so the mexican government has a category of extreme poverty. it has a category of poverty and extremeoverty, and 75% of the 3.4 million people who live in oaxaca qualify for the category of extreme poverty. 21.5% of the people in oaxaca can't read or write. 45% of the students don't finish elementary school. 12.5% of the homes in oaxaca
don't have electricity still. 26% don't have running water, and 41% of the families living in oaxaca live in a house with a dirt floor. oaxaca and vera cruz are not exceptions. in fact, mexico is not an exception, because in developing countries all over the world people want an alternative to this. people want a decent life. people believe they have a decent, a right to a decent life in the communities where they're living, which is what is called the right to stay home. people want the ability to choose. it's not that there's anything wrong with migration, it's not that there's anything wrong with coming to the united states or anywhere else, but it should be a choice. it should be something that's voluntary, not forced on people. but when you look at what the response is of the mexican government to the teachers last week, driving them out with tear
gas and beating them, it's pretty clear that advocating for those kinds of policies in mexico today that would give people alternatives means that you come up against the government. so part of the right to stay home is also the right to advocate for political change. you know, those teachers, they're not selfish people. i think in many ways they are acting in the highest interests of their students and their families. but when you read in "the new york times" here or even when you look at one of univision or telemundo and the reports about what's happening in mexico city, they say that teachers are violent, they're irresponsible, they refuse to teach their classes, they're just demonstrating all over, they have no care for their students, you know? they just don't get it. vasquez, who is a friend of mine who's an activist in -- [speaking spanish] he says the lack of human rights itself is a factor that
contributes to high gration from oaxaca in mexico because it makes it so difficult for us to organize for change. so migration is not an accident. and here in the united states we have an economic system that depends on it. it depends on the labor of migrant workers. if everybody who was born in some to other country went home tomorrow, who would cut up the fruit and vegetables or the, you know, meat we find on the shelf at safeway? who's going to clean the office buildings here in new york city? i'm not saying that immigrants are the only workers in our economy. you know, african-americans are workers, people whose ancestors came here as slaves. there have been chicano families living in the united states when the united states was not the united states, when new mexico and texas were part of mexico and before that even, before even the spaniards arrived.
filipino and chinese families here whose ancestors worked on the transcontinental railroad and came here 150 years ago. white people who came here as migrants from europe. all of us work. all of us have to work. that's how we put bread on the table. but i think we have to be real about this, and that is that without the labor of migrants in our economy here, the economy here could not function. so to those building contractors who hire the people who clean the buildings here in new york, do you think tata they pay -- that they pay for the needs of the workers' families in the towns that people are coming from? they depend on this flow of people into new york city to do this work, but do they pay for what it takes those up toes to keep on producing workers that are going to come here? who is it that builds the homes in oaxaca? who is it that builds the schools and pays for the
schools? who is it that pays for the medical care when there is any? you know? employers here in this country who use this labor force, they pay for nothing. they don't even pay taxes in mexico, and is a lot of them don't even pay taxes here either. so who is it that pays for that? who is it who pays more producing more workers to come into the economy here? workers pay for it. people who are sending those remittances back home. it's a very cheap system. and here in the united states it's cheap too for them, because workers who don't have papers, they pay taxes and social security generally. you might think that 11 million people without papers at least 8 million of them with working -- are working for a living. and most of them are working at regular jobs meaning that you get deducted from your check the taxes and social security. that's why i think it's such bs that, you know, these
immigration reform proposals say you must pay your back taxes. what back taxes? people have been paying taxes all the way along. the people that people are not paying social security, it's that they cannot get the benefits that they're supposed to pay for. if you don't have any papers, you can't get unemployment, you can't get disability, you can't get social security. and these are all products of the new deal. these are all the hinges that, you know -- all the things that, you know, parents and grandparents of working people living here fought for. but if you don't have any papers just like to the new deal just never happened. and, of course, if they take away these benefits from people without papers, then they come after people who do have papers, which they did in 1996. and even for people with some kind of visa, some kinds of benefits you can't get. and, of course, now who are they coming after in wisconsin and everywhere else? they're coming after citizens now, too, saying, well, you don't really have a right to retirement after all or to medical care when you get old.
so in other words, when it starts happening with one group of people, it spreads. you know, let me ask you another simple question here. why can't everybody get a social security card? after all, don't we want people to be part of the is system here? what is it that you volunteer to do when you get that social security card? you're going to give the government money, right? so here we're saying to people, no, you can't do it. you know, the reason why we have the system so that people don't eat dog food when they get old, so that when we get old, we have something to care for us if we get sick, we can't work. 11 million people are going to get old along with everybody else. what's going to happen, what kind of world are we going to live in with millions and millions of people who have no income at all when they get old? and the reality is that now they're using that social security number, and that social security card, as a way of
finding people who don't have papers. the way they find people in those factories who don't have papers is they compare the social security numbers to the database, and then they figure out people who are working with pad numbers and they say, aha, you must not have papers, fire you or worse. so if everybody has a social security number, they couldn't make it function. i think that that's what we ought to insist on. how about wages? ..
and it can happen, you know. before longshoremen had a union but they were called bombs, and they got their jobs in a shake-up down in the port just the way day laborers get their jobs on street corners today. and now if you work in port elizabeth on one of those container crates you are making a hell of a lot of money. what was it that did it? the union. people organized the unions. that is what changed it. if employers had to raise -- let's forget about long shore workers from an end to say, if the employers had to raise the wages of undocumented people to the average wage the, the average working class wage in the united states got people's wages would double, but it would cost employers a lot. if you total up the number of undocumented people and the number of hours in the year and what the differences it would add up to about $80 billion a year. so it's no wonder that employers don't want people to have unions
and don't like it when they try and get organized. but, and good workers are fighters. it was not long ago when janitors said done in the streets of cities across the united states and wanted the right to have their union. senator workers have gone on strike in factories and office buildings and laundries and hotels and fields. some unions in this country are growing. generally speaking, they are the unions that understand that their rig workers are willing to fight to make things better. in fact and i would say the battles are fought by immigrant workers right now in the last 20 years, among the most important things that are making a strong today should make a commitment. we had a little revolution in our labour movement the afl-cio gully taster labor movement position on immigration and we got the afl-cio to make a commitment this of that there would be rid of the law and mexico for somebody to works that our papers. we would also fight to protect the workers right to organize
and fight for a decent legalization problem. we should live up to the promise. we should refuse to support any immigration reform that means that thousands of people, in fact millions of people possibly are going to be fired because they don't have papers. that is what mandatory e-verify means in the bill that keeps in place f, and 287g, the parts of the law that we have today that allow local police to enforce immigration law, the racial profiling. that is why we have 400,000 people deported every year. that is where those deportations are coming from. we don't want to support that. you know, employers and the wealth the glove and reverence and ate them. and they want and need people's work the tell want to have to pay a living wage for it. what better way is there not to
pay for it than to turn people into criminals. that is a very old story here. this is what has been done with emigrants' historically. they made it describes. anti miscegenation laws. at the same time immigration laws kept women from coming to the philippines. so for the farmworkers on the west coast in the 1930's and 40's and 50's it was a crime to have a family. many men stayed single their whole lives. why? so that they would just move from labor camps a labor camp working wherever it was the growers need the labor. snow, the program we have from 1942 to 1964, this said there were legal because they have visas. and that is what they say about guest workers today, but aides to a and ecb workers were the ones in the new workers that are
part of this legislation that is on the table in both the house and the senate, but let's remember the history. they have to live behind barbed wire in camps. they could only grow where growers wanted them to go. people went out on strike they got deported. people did not even get all of their pay. people are still fighting to get the pay that was withheld from their checks in the 1950's and the early 1960's. and when people came to the end of that contract they had to leave the country. that is still the rule for guest worker program sunday. you know something, they have fought to stay here. people had to fight just for the right to have a family. they fought, some of them just walked away from the program. they live here and sell 1986 when people were able to give legal status finally. but in 1964 people like burke
corona here born in el paso, texas. they've forced congress to end the breasts are a program. and the next year mexicans and filipinos organize the unions and went out on strike. that is when the united farm workers of america was born. but they did not stop there because the next year they went back to congress, 1965, and they said, give us the law that is not going to make workers pesetas or criminals behind barbwire were slaves for the growers. give us a lot this is our families are what is important, and that is so we get the family preference system. that is why if you have a green card you can get your mother or father or children to come and join you or your brothers and sisters still right now, we did not have the before. the civil rights movement one as the law. and then they started for visas
to reason out the petitions that are being processed for people who are trying to bring their married children from mexico, the petitions are being processed are the ones that were filed 20 years ago. and for manila it is the ones about 22 years ago. so now we have bills again in congress that are going after that system directly. brothers and sisters no more. that preference category will end under the senate bill. the right to bring your children , if they are adults, married children, that will end as well. these are people's families they're talking about. instead, if you want to come here you have to get married points. what mayor appoints means is you have skills or you have some capacity that an employer wants. so instead of having a system that serves us and our families with a system that is designed to give workers to employers.
they are trying to push us backwards into the press so arrogant. clearly this fight is not over because, first of all, we have to fight against his people like the tea party people in congress to he immigrants, but we also have to deal with those people who say that they love immigrants when they are really in love with low wages. have to make sure that we don't have trade agreements or economic policies that are going to force families and the poverty to so that a new generation of workers is going to of leave mexico or el salvador to go through the doors of the laundry's here in new york or to help those people or to take care of their gardens and their kids. so what is it that we do what? it is not that complicated. you know, the american friends service committee has a document here that is called a new path, and it has a very clear
explanation of what an alternative immigration policy would look like. the dignity campaign, another network of organizations that has a proposal with similar ideas, a program that says what an alternative immigration policy would look like. in the all-star by asking not what congress is going to vote for, but what will actually solve the problems that we have as working people. what do we need? what do we want? we won legalization. so that means green cards so that people can live normal lives of their families in their communities. we need to get rid of the laws that turn people into criminals, especially the was the to the work. no more detention centers. no more ankle bracelets. no more e-verify data base to target those workers. that is what is costing people
their jobs year. we want equality in rates which means not of the services that a person can only walk the streets here if you have a job, but if you get fired and you lose it you have to leave all you get deported. that is with the guest worker program all says. you are just here to work. you are now working, get out. everybody in our communities is to have the same rights and the same status. and for people's families, in mexico or guatemala, el salvador, the philippines, people have the right to a decent life, right to survive, right to not migrate. and people especially have a right to stay home. in for that people need jobs in any productive farms and good schools and health care. for that we have to change trade agreements like nafta.
we have to change the policies of that our government is pursuing in other countries because that is what is robbing people of that chance. and if people do come here to work in people deserve the same things that every other worker year as because we all need the same things. we all need jobs. we all need schools or decent place to live with the right to walk the streets or to drive our cars without being afraid. so high in the sky when you die, right? if it's possible that we get that. i don't think it is possible, actually, to pass immigration reform like this as a stand-alone item because it is too connected with everything else here. we're not going to get this a free delphi for those other things, jobs, health care, education, justice. you know something, these are things that everybody your knees, not just immigrants. this is what unites us to be if we can fight together that we
can stop raids and have been more just society of everybody regardless of where you were born. so this is possible. you know, i think about i have a child of the cold war. i think about what life was like here in 1955. you know, 1955 press arrows and farm workers did not the change was ever going to come because gore said all the power here and workers had none. if you were black and you try to vote in mississippi you could give lynched, your home or church could get bond, but tin years later what happens? we had a new immigration law that protected families. the program was over. union going on strike. the civil rights act passed. the voting rights act passed. the republic of new africa is a very radical organization. and coming out of the civil
rights movement. elected mayor of jackson mississippi. so what happens? who did this? who made this change? week. some mothers, fathers, grandparents. we, they organize the civil rights movement. that is what we need today, and movement the strong and powerful . but willing to fight for what we actually need. if we can build that in we can have an immigration system that respects human rights and stop deportations and have a system of security for working families on both sides of the border. if it tell us that we cannot have it what are we going to say? what to the lama to just say in the election? yes, we can. they keep. [applause]
[inaudible question] >> not everybody at once here. also, a realistic way of looking and immigration reform, feel free to say that i note that there are a lot of people who feel the way. >> would you talk a little bit about what happened to the factories that were around the border with the coalition for justice struggled?
>> okay. the once took a couple of questions? here to give technology in a volatile up from. >> the results of the program. in 1964, 1965 when the program ended, what happened was there was a large number of people, they have been coming to the united states, new work. in the mexican government began what was the border industrialization program, the
idea of which was to permit foreign investors to set up factories that would come on the one hand, use the labour and on the other hand, hopefully contribute some value to the mexican economy. so the border became kind of an exceptional place for a long time. in other words, a place where the normal rules did not apply. even though companies could not set up factories in that era and other parts of mexico, they could on the border. and unfortunately, what it did was, it gave, especially the political authorities in those border states and cities a vested interest in attracting that foreign investment. and for the workers it was a very double-edged sword because of the one hand there were jobs to you know, employment eventually mushroomed on the border with big factories, you know, a c-span2 used to be a very small town and became a
city of a million people. waters became a city of 2 million people to be people, because the population on the border was so small, people came from other parts of mexico. so really the same way that migration of people that came into the united states was also the same with the people that came up to the border looking for work. but will rule was or became, don't do anything that is going to discourage the companies from investing in building factories. so the big thing that would discourage them would be if the wages rose or if their cost went up because the a barman to regulations were strictly enforced. mexico has very good and normal laws and very good labour legislation. a problem on the border was that it was impossible for workers and communities to force it. so it became this exceptional thought. eventually what happens is that it kind of spreads from the
border, the same exceptional as an to the rest of mexico. so when you look at the labor law reform proposals that have been made of the last ten years in mexico, what they're really do is try to institutionalize in the rest of mexico what already became a fact of life on the ground on the border. in so for workers it really made people living in very bad conditions and also it meant that there jobs or very insecure because there were links to the market here. instead of making products for sale in mexico it or making products for sale in the united states. and so, of course, if the united states stopped buying them all the sudden things get really terrible relief task which has happened periodically on the border. so it becomes a self a cause for migration to the united states because people have to do something in order to survive. in the coalition for justice was one of a number of organizations , but it was a very important one.
it was made up of and is made up of still organizations on both sides of the border. in fact, it includes organizations in canada and it is a solidarity organization in which people try to support the struggles of being made by workers to organize independent unions, raise wages to enforce environmental laws, basically have a decent life. and i think that that was one of the help the responses that happened in this country to the north american free trade agreement, working people in this country and unions especially took a look at what was happening on the border. and while ross perot tried to use it as this very jean-louis to scare tactic of selling, let those workers, their enemy, you know, a lot of other workers in unions said look at what is going on at the border. what we try to figure out how to fight together because, after all, the companies in the same.
you know, general electric, factories there, factories here. so i think that was a good response that we were able to make. in fact, if we could do the same thing around immigration and think we would be a lot further ahead. >> thank you. first of all, thank you very much for this thought-provoking lecture. your opinion. it is interesting. reform, completely agree. the idea of dignifying the movement and giving more emphasis, the dignity of people rather than on the market benefits, this is something that we should all work for. what i -- i am not totally convinced. and need to read your book to go more into it. the idea that you propose -- to
me, i understand it as an actor explanation, historical marxist sort of against the nation of in forced migration from the mexican states into the population. the vans that includes certainly nafta and, of course, in mexico also. and from my experience as somebody was interviewed thousands of migrants. especially here in new york city , i come to the conclusion that the explanation is always much more nuanced. a decision making process, immigrant families. the make me see that the migrants, especially in my community, the mexican community, someone who has taken almost like political steps and when they decide to engage in the migration process. is a statement.
they come as a more engaged citizen was the make the decision to come here and all the sort of process. yes, and some point it comes from some. but even that, the attitude, saying, hey, i am not staying here. i have my cousin in queens. and it is always this. the macro explanation for me always does not make sense when you come to real people in d.c. that this is a decision that was very calculated. sometimes it does not come from the extreme poverty and sometimes you portray. it comes from -- in the case of new york tomorrow, middle-class people from down south. a new migration. different to the rest. this, what we have here is a
completely different idea of the mexican guys for. so those maybe points that i want to raise. and thank you very much. >> well, i think that first of all, you know, the presentation, i submit, the presentation is a polemic, really, and it is a polemic about the politics of immigration reform here in the united states. what i'm trying to say is the way we are looking at it is producing very unrealistic and repressive laws that are overwhelmingly in the interests of very wealthy interests in our society and not in the interests of migrants and working people generally. so it is a picture that is very well drawn, although i think that in our debate about
immigration in the united states wheat, especially in the immigrants rights movement tend to look away too much, i think, from people's lives as workers and think too little about it. and i would just offer as an example, think of how much protest we have made about as com justifiably because it is to the did partition of 70 people. it is such an unfair thing that a police officer with no responsibility for immigration becomes the person who can ask you where your papers. in the context and the police tell. all of the injustices that go with it.
the consequences can be extremely brutal. very, very difficult for the people that are involved in it. i would say that the numbers are, perhaps, not quite as many as the number of deportations, but they are very large. i'm also trying to say, look, let's look more directly at that and what it means. i think what you are saying, very true. another boat. it was called communities about borders which has really been made up of forestries, narratives, immigrants, not very much of me in the book as a writer or a narrator. the photography as well. it is my one the tongue of a book. state is an attempt to explore the process of migration in the eyes and the voices of migrants
themselves. and so you do get a much more nuanced and complex picture. you know, all about transnational communities, the idea originally was to show that, you know, if you are -- if you come from the mystical town, you can go to baja, california. you can go to fresno. you can go washington state. these days you can even go to north carolina and florida, and you will find people from your home town, your friends. you can speak your language a major food. it's like you live in the same community but located in different places. that is a reality, the committee creating in reality of migration a lot. it would also say that all of the immigration legislation we are talking about a tax communities all the time. if we want immigration structured in this country that
respects we have to take a look at what is on the table and ask ourselves, is this going to help the community to survive or is it going to hurt them? if we talk about immigrants as having to in culture it themselves into the united states, which means basically learn english and become culturally like the people around jim, what happens to the families that a trying to teach there kids to speak the language or to maintain the cultural traditions of the town's the people are coming from? it is hard enough anyway even without the government getting into it because even people are surrounded by tv, go to school where no one speaks the language in california we have a law that says that bilingual education is illegal. so those are difficult parts of it as well. and especially on what you say about migration being a political act. one of the people in the book.
a friend of mine was a combat in 101, and then fell in love and came to live in a brass band, and became a community organizer among meatpacking workers in nebraska. and says that, you know, he says something -- i am paraphrasing, something like, you know, for hundreds of years you came to our kedgeree. you caused enormous havoc in view treated us, you know, like whenever. you, you know, fermented wars. we died. now we're coming where you live, you know, immigration is a political act. not exactly of revenge are you, but this is what we are doing in response to that, and you better recognized and respected. and i think that a lot of people feel the same way that kill you know, the act of coming here is
not just, you know, something the you do because you have to eat, but it is something you do is a conscious human being and it has meaning and significance for you. and it is a political act, i think. it is sort of tying the world together. in, you know, sometimes i think camino, even if we had a very, very different world situation. i say that the national incomes of guatemala and mexico in the united states orifice same, we have a much more fair relationship between this, i think migration was still on because, first of all, people's families on both sides of the border and also because we can. we are not living in the middle ages and the more. we live in a world where people can go from one country to another in just a few hours. we're not going to go backward to a world where is not possible so i think that integration is
-- not denigration but the migration of people is a permanent fact of life, and i think when you really look at it is part of who we are as human beings. hard wired into less. so i recognize the truth of what he said, for sure. >> a question. >> well, thank you very much. >> i would like to point out that we have his book on the table of a there. we also materials. and some materials about the center for latin american, caribbean, and latino studies. thank you very much for coming. have a good evening. >> okay. [applause]