Activists call for May Day worker reforms

Maria Elena Durazo announces the 2014 May Day March in Downtown L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

Maria Elena Durazo announces the 2014 May Day March in Downtown L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

Cries of “¡Sí se puede!” and “Yes, we can!” filled the air at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month as a crowd of a couple of dozen activists and workers demanded minimum wage increases and the passage of immigration reform.

“We’re uniting the issues of workers and their right to living wages and the right of immigrants to be in this country in a way that they are treated with respect,” said Maria Elena Durazo from the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

She also announced the new route for the annual Workers’ Day march on May 1. It will begin at Cesar Chavez and Broadway, concluding at the Metropolitan Detention Center about one half-mile away.  [Read more…]

Immigration activists demand reform in Obama’s second term


Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

President Obama has called the failure to pass immigration reform his biggest disappointment. After winning 71 percent of the Latino vote on Tuesday, many of those constituents won’t accept further delays.

That’s because exit polls conducted by polling firm Latino Decisions and the Pew Hispanic Center found that immigration reform is a priority for the Latino community.

California State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo said President Obama is now in a powerful position to help not only the country’s documented immigrants, but it’s more than 11 million undocumented ones too.

“We expect that; he has been committed to that,” Cedillo said. “We think the conditions exist now for it to be realized.”

But commitment might not be enough. In his first term, Obama couldn’t gather enough bipartisan support to pass the Federal Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for people brought to this country as children. That forced many states, including California, to pass their own version of the law.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said Obama needs to go further.

“The immigration question is resolved by legalizing 12 million people,” Salas said. She added that he should work with Congress to make immigration making our immigration “actually work by reuniting families instead of having them wait 30 and 40 years to be reunited with each other.”

Both Salas and Cedillo said Republicans should play a part in this process too, citing common ground among the GOP and Latinos on a number of other issues.

“Latinos in many instances are very poised to be Republicans. [They are] entrepreneurial, small business starters, very faith based,” he said. “All the values that the Republicans espouse are the values that are at the core of the immigrant Latino.”

But not everyone thinks Latinos can broaden the G.O.P. base. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says economic issues prevent many Latinos from ever voting Republican.

“If the party you’re representing says the opposition is cutting taxes and making government smaller – that’s not necessarily a platform that’s going to appeal to voters who pay very little in taxes to begin with and are dependent on the government for a lot of their basic needs,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman said many Republicans also want immigration reform – it just looks different than what Democrats are proposing.

“President Obama’s position seems to be that the interests of those people who came here illegally ought to be placed first,” he said. “The Republicans very often think it’s the interests of business that ought to be placed first, so there are many different perceptions of what immigration reform would entail.”

Since it could take lawmakers time to hammer out a deal, Cedillo and Salas said the President can make an immediate statement by curbing the number of deportations carried out by his administration – a number topping 1.4 million.