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The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a struggle to end the second-class status of a sector of the population that did not enjoy the rights decreed by the U.S. Constitution.
Today, undocumented immigrant workers and their families live in circumstances similar to what African-Americans had to endure before civil rights were won.
Most immigrants have been forced out of their native countries by circumstances out of their control. They are driven by their natural instinct for survival.
Immigrants contribute to society, but live in constant fear–something that resonates with many families whose experiences led to the civil rights movement. Just as African-Americans were terrorized by a system based on racism, immigrants are terrorized by a broken system that tears families apart, simply for having the audacity to make every attempt to feed their children.
‘Dignity and Respect’
The iconic leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught us that all labor deserves dignity and respect. Dr. King struggled and made the ultimate sacrifice to bring justice to everyone. Most of us today enjoy rights based on the sacrifices made by people like Dr. King, who fought not only for his family and those close to him, but for all working people.
As a tribute to Dr. King, I urge all of my union sisters and brothers to commit to another beautiful struggle that demands justice, dignity and equality for all workers.
It is time to stop hoping and start working to demand bipartisan support for comprehensive and humane immigration reform based on family reunification with a clear path to citizenship for undocumented workers and their families.
Let’s work to have a unified voice that demands justice for all workers. Let’s work to fix the broken immigration laws that hold back the cause of human rights.
Deputy Public Conservator/Administrator
Office of the Public Guardian
LA County Department of Mental Health
Photo: Oscar Valladares participated with SEIU 721 members, community allies, members of other unions, and elected officials in a press conference and rally for comprehensive immigration reform, LA City Hall, Jan. 18, 2013.