July 10, 2010
Florida is a prime tourist destination and visitors to the state flock to theme parks, museums, historical sites and beaches. Earlier this year a traveling Modern-Day Slavery Museum sponsored by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was not the usual tourist attraction, but received a lot of attention.
The Naples News wrote that the exhibition shocked visitors:
"I cannot believe it,” Barbara LaCourse said, gasping while scanning pictures of farmworkers. “My gosh.”The museum travelled to Washington, DC where it was displayed at the U.S. State Department and National Mall.
LaCourse, 62, who is visiting Naples from Minnesota, joined about 100 people who went Wednesday to see the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum -- a mobile educational vehicle with multimedia displays on the history of slavery in the state, including its roots, the reasons it continues today and its solutions.
...“Today, we are bringing this message because perhaps they’re people who don’t know that this continues to happen within agriculture,” coalition member Leonel Perez, 23, said in Spanish.
Perez invited everyone to visit the museum to help eliminate slavery.
“Slavery’s roots are the poverty and the powerlessness that continue to prevail in the industry,” said Perez, a farmworker in Immokalee for four years.
Perez added that farmworkers standing up for their rights in the farms are at risk of losing their job.
The Museum's website states:
The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum consists of a cargo truck outfitted as a replica of the trucks involved in a recent slavery operation (U.S. v. Navarrete, 2008), accompanied by displays on the history and evolution of slavery in Florida.Too many people look at foreign workers not as people, but as problems. This exhibit shines a light on the reality of the agricultural industry's dark secrets - the trafficking of workers, ridiculously low wages, and deplorable working conditions. Education will lead to reform. and this traveling museum educates and open eyes to the reality of modern day slavery in the United States. What a great idea!
Immigration Reform -When?
While Republicans and Democrats play politics in Washington, DC, the borders remain unsecured, parents face separation from their U.S. citizen children, and exploitation of undocumented workers continues.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) wrote an editorial that was published in The Hill on July 9, 2010. He said in part:
We need a bill that ensures safe borders, holds undocumented immigrants accountable, and creates a rigorous process for acquiring earned legal status, as HR 4321 currently does. I’m happy to hear the president talk so clearly about why we can’t kick this can any further down the road. We can’t leave millions of people in permanent limbo. A rigorous process for bringing them into the legal system, the employment system and the tax system will benefit not only these people individually but the nation as a whole.Rep. Grijalva said that he agreed with President Obama that comprehensive immigration reform is "a matter of political courage." The time for comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue. The political games must end. The politicians in Washington have been holding important legislation hostage for far too long.
We need a serious approach to this issue. Deporting 11 million people is unrealistic and would destroy the fabric of this country. Anyone who says otherwise is not living in the real world. Demagogues in the Republican Party, and their Democratic allies, will say this is about amnesty and open borders. No matter how many times they repeat it, it won’t be true. No one who understands the issue believes we can just dig trenches, point guns at the border and live in fear the rest of our lives. We need legal, social, economic and political reforms to truly make immigration work in this country, and we need them now.
Please sign my petition in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Let’s make our voices heard as Washington turns its attention to this crucial issue.
There has been talk that the AgJOBS Bill and the DREAM ACT may finally come up for a vote. The AgJOBS Bill was introduced in both the Senate and House last year. The bill, which has bipartisan support, addresses the problem of farm labor shortages while protecting rights of the farm workers.
From a 2009 New York Times editorial:
The legislation, which has bipartisan support, is the result of years of negotiations between growers and workers’ advocates. Growers and workers are tied together, but their interests are highly prone to collision, as anyone who remembers the California farmworker strikes of the 1970s knows.The DREAM Bill (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), that was sponsored by Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), would grant legal status to about 1 million young people brought into the United States illegally as children if they are in college or join the military.
Because it’s hard to find Americans willing to endure the heat, cold and misery of stooping in the fields — or the low wages — growers overwhelmingly use undocumented workers. An estimated 75 percent or more of the agricultural work force is here illegally. This is bad for everybody. Undocumented workers are easy prey for exploitation and unable to assert their rights. Growers constantly complain about labor shortages and are vulnerable to disruptive immigration raids.
The bill helps to bolster labor rights, while also making it easier for growers to hire more temporary immigrant workers — after advertising and recruiting for Americans. Most critical, it includes a path to legal status and eventual citizenship for undocumented workers if they have clean records and pay fines and back taxes.
...It’s a model compromise, mixing pro-business pragmatism with a commitment to protecting workers — future Americans — who do some of the country’s most vital yet difficult jobs. Whether AgJobs is enacted on its own or, more likely, folded into a larger immigration bill, it deserves a place at the table of comprehensive reform.
CQ Quarterly reports:
There’s a slim chance that the DREAM bill — possibly joined with AgJOBS — could come up for a vote in the Senate this year.UFW president Arturo Rodriquez speaks about the agricultural jobs and the Take Our Jobs! campaign on the Colbert Report:
Some Democrats want to attach one or both bills as amendments to must-pass legislation this fall and dare Republicans to filibuster, risking charges that they are not only “anti-Hispanic,” but “anti-kid.”
Other Democrats don’t favor the ploy, however, fearing Republicans would seek to add harsh enforcement amendments.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might try to block Republican amendments by resorting to a parliamentary tactic known as “filling the tree."
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