Wednesday, May 2, 2018


By David Bacon
Dollars and Sense | May/June 2018

Francisco and Maria Tapec are Filipino grape pickers in Coachella. Although Filipino workers were a large and important part of the farm labor workforce in the Coachella Valley from the 1920s to the 1970s, very few grape workers come from the Philippines today. Photo by David Bacon

Honoring Larry Itliong and a generation of radicals whose political ideas are as relevant to workers now as they were in 1965.  This article is from the (forthcoming) May/June 2018 issue.  Published today in honor of May Day.

The great Delano grape strike started on September 8, 1965, when Filipino pickers stayed in their labor camps, and refused to go into the fields. Mexican workers joined them two weeks later. The strike went on for five years, until all California table grape growers were forced to sign contracts in 1970. The conflict was a watershed struggle for civil and labor rights, supported by millions of people across the country. It breathed new life into the labor movement and opened doors for immigrants and people of color.

California's politics have changed profoundly in the 52 years since then, in large part because of that strike. Delano's mayor today is a Filipino. That would have been unthinkable in 1965, when growers treated the town as a plantation. Children of farm worker families have become members of the state legislature. Last year they spearheaded passage of a law that requires the same overtime pay for farm workers as for all other workers-the second state, after Hawai'i, to pass such a law.

The United Farm Workers, created in that strike, was the product of a social movement. The strategic ideas the union used to fight for its survival evolved as the responses of thousands of people to problems faced by farm worker unions for a century-strikebreaking, geographic isolation, poverty, and grower violence. The tools they chose, the strike and the boycott, have been used by farm workers ever since.

Every year spontaneous work stoppages like it take place in U.S. fields, although not on that scale. Anger over miserable wages and living conditions led workers in Washington State, for instance, to go on strike four years ago. They then organized the country's newest farm worker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (see David Bacon, "These Things Can Change," Dollars & Sense, March/April 2015). Combining action in the fields with a boycott of Driscoll's berries, they won their first union contract last year.

In the years since 1965, farm worker unions have grown to over a dozen, in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, in addition to California. To one degree or another, all draw inspiration from the movement that started in Delano.

Liberal mythology holds that farm worker unions hardly existed until the creation of United Farm Workers in the '60s and that the farm worker unions and advocacy organizations of today appeared with no history of earlier struggles. But the importance of the Delano strike requires a reexamination of this idea, especially a reassessment of the radical career of Larry Itliong.

Larry Itliong and the Filipino Radicals 

 Larry Itliong. Bob Fitch photography archive, (c) Stanford University Libraries

Larry Itliong, who headed the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), not only shared the strike's leadership with Cesar Chavez, but actually started it. Chavez was born in 1927 near Yuma, Ariz.; Itliong was born in 1913 in the Philippines-almost a generation before. By 1965 he had been organizing farm workers for many years.

During the 1930s, Filipinos and other farm workers formed left-wing unions and mounted huge strikes. According to Oberlin professor Rick Baldoz, "The burgeoning strike activity involving thousands of Filipinos in the mid-1930s occasioned a furious backlash from growers who worked closely with local law enforcement."

One of the most important people to influence Itliong was Carlos Bulosan, who wrote America Is in the Heart, a classic account of life as a Filipino migrant farm worker during the 1930s. The FBI considered the book dangerous-evidence of the reader's Communist sympathies during the Cold War. Both men were active in the union organized by Filipino workers in the salmon canneries on the Alaska coast. These were mostly single men, recruited from the Philippines to come as laborers in the 1920s. In Alaska, their union fought to end rampant discrimination and terrible conditions, and forced the fish companies to sign contracts.

Known as "manongs," these men were the children of colonialism. From 1898 to 1946 the Philippines was a U.S. colony, and even in the most remote islands, children were taught in English, from U.S. textbooks, by missionary teachers from Philadelphia or New Jersey. Students studied the promises of the Declaration of Independence before they knew the names of Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, and Andres Bonifacio, who led Filipinos in their war for independence against the Spaniards, and later against the Americans.

The manongs were radicalized because they compared the ideals of the U.S. Constitution, and of the Filipinos' own quest for freedom, with the harsh reality they found in the United States. Some even volunteered for the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, opposing fascism in the country that was their former colonizer. In Spain, Pedro Penino organized the Rizal Company, named in honor of Jose Rizal.

Baldoz gained access to the file on Bulosan kept by the FBI, which monitored Filipino radicals. "The fact that these partisans attracted the attention of federal authorities during the Cold War is hardly surprising," he says. "Filipino workers had developed a well-earned reputation for labor militancy in the United States dating back to the early 1930s."

Many of the manongs were Communists, believing that fighting for better wages was part of fighting against capitalism and colonialism, to change the system. Bulosan wrote, "America is not bound by geographical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of people that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of people building a new world." In 1952 he was hired by leaders of the fish cannery union to edit its yearbook. Among its many appeals for radical causes, it opposed nuclear war and U.S. military intervention abroad, and urged solidarity with the Huk movement in the Philippines, which was fighting continued U.S. domination of its former colony.

Filipino immigrant workers at an organizing rally at the Forty Acres, the historic home of the United Farm Workers. Photo by David Bacon

Until 1949 the fish cannery union, Local 37, was part of the farm workers union of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA). As the Cold War started, the CIO expelled nine unions, including UCAPAWA and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), because of their left-wing politics and often Communist leaders. At the height of the McCarthyite hysteria more than 30 members of Local 37 were arrested and threatened with deportation to the Philippines, including its officers Ernesto Mangaoang and Chris Mensalvas, and activists Ponce Torres, Pablo Valdez, George Dumlao and Joe Prudencio.

Eventually Mangaoang's deportation case was thrown out by the courts. He argued that he couldn't be deported, given that he'd been a U.S. "national" since he arrived in Seattle in the 1920s. "National" was a status given Filipinos because the Philippines was a U.S. colony at the time. Filipinos couldn't be considered immigrants, but they weren't citizens either.

Filipino Workers Kept Farm Unionism Alive in the Cold War

Larry Itliong had a long history as an organizer. He was Ernesto Mangaoang's protégé, and was Local 37's dispatcher, sending workers on the boats from Seattle to the Alaska salmon canneries every season. After the salmon season was over, many Filipinos would return home to California's Salinas and San Joaquin Valleys, where they worked as farm laborers for the rest of the year.

In the segregated barrios of towns like Stockton and Salinas they formed hometown associations and social clubs. Itliong used these networks to organize Filipinos when they went to work in the fields, including strikes in Stockton's asparagus fields in 1948 and 1949. At the time, growers kept workers under guard in labor camps, where if they held open meetings, they risked being fired and even beaten. To help the asparagus cutters organize, Itliong would sneak into a camp, crawl under the bunkhouse, and speak to workers through the cracks in the floor.

UCAPAWA was destroyed in the 1949 CIO purge, and the Filipino local in Seattle was taken in by the ILWU. It survived, and today is part of the ILWU's Inland Boatman's Union. The Federal government tried to bankrupt Local 37, forcing its leaders to exhaust their resources on high bail and lawyers' fees. With the radicals tied up in legal defense, a conservative faction took control of the union and stopped its farm worker organizing drives. That group held it until it was thrown out in the 1980s by a new young generation of radical Filipinos, two of whom, Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes (a former farm worker) were assassinated by agents of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Yet in the early 1950s Filipino farm workers continued to organize. Ernesto Galarza built an alliance between them and the National Farm Labor Union (NFLU) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the union mounted thirty strikes. Galarza was an immigrant from Nayarit, a poet and writer as well as an organizer. The NFLU struck the giant DiGiorgio Corporation, then California's largest grower, for 30 months, and was eventually defeated. Supporters of the workers made a movie about it, Poverty in the Valley of Plenty, which urged people to boycott the company's fruit. Di Giorgio used its political muscle to have it banned, and sued any organization that tried to show it.

In 1959 the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) was set up by the merged AFL-CIO. After hiring Itliong as an organizer because of his history among Filipino workers, AWOC used flying squads of pickets to mount quick strikes. In 1961, AWOC, together with the United Packinghouse Workers, another leftwing former CIO union, struck the Imperial Valley lettuce harvest, demanding $1.25 per hour.

Growers kept wages low by employing bracero contract labor from Mexico. Under that program growers brought workers under tightly-controlled, highly exploitative conditions. During the strike the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened braceros that they would be deported if they joined the mostly-Filipino strike. Galarza said, "The state was flooded with braceros while we were on strike. I lost track of the number of times I was thrown out of camps trying to talk with them. If they were seen talking with you they were deported home to Mexico." Despite the threats, however, some braceros joined the strike.

Itliong and the Filipinos in the Delano Grape Strike 

AWOC members picket during the grape strike in Delano. Photo by Harvey Richards, used by permission.

Finally, in 1965, led by Itliong, Filipino workers struck the vineyards in the Coachella Valley, near the Mexican border, where California's grape harvest begins. They won a 40¢/hour wage increase from grape growers and forced authorities to drop charges against arrested strikers. After winning in Coachella, the strikers moved with the grape harvest into the San Joaquin Valley, where their strike was met with fierce opposition.

In Delano, Filipinos workers began sitting in at the camps, refusing to leave to go to work. UFW founder Dolores Huerta described to historian Dawn Mabalon the first days of the Delano strike, saying that she, Cesar Chavez, and other National Farm Worker Association (NFWA) organizers were shocked at grower violence against the Filipinos. "Some of them were beaten up by the growers [who] would shut off the gas and the lights and the water in the labor camps," Huerta recalled. Growers kicked the Filipino strikers out, forcing them to move into town, and Filipino Hall in Delano became the center of the strike. If Delano's mayor today is a Filipino, it's because of what the growers started in 1965.

The timing of the 1965 strike was not accidental. It took place the year after Galarza, Huerta, Bert Corona, Cesar Chavez, and other civil rights and labor activists forced Congress to repeal Public Law 78 and end the bracero program. Farm worker leaders knew that once the program ended growers would no longer be able to bring braceros into the U.S. to break strikes. Nevertheless, the grape barons searched for strikebreakers throughout the conflict's five years. From their first picket lines in Delano, strikers watched as growers brought in crews to take their jobs. When braceros were no longer available, often the Border Patrol opened the border, and trucks hauling strikebreakers roared up through the desert every night. Local police and sheriffs provided armed protection.

Both Filipinos and Mexicans wanted to keep growers and the government from using immigration policy against them. Strikers and labor advocates sought policies that would instead favor families and communities. In the 1965 immigration reform, passed the year after the bracero program ended, they established family reunification as a basic principle. This enabled thousands of people, especially family members of farm workers, to immigrate from the Philippines, Mexico, and other developing countries, while keeping employers from treating immigration purely as a labor supply system.

Immigration Reform and the Boycott

Today, President Trump's talk about ending "chain migration" is coded language for trying to do away with family reunification, an achievement of the civil rights movement. Both Trump and growers want to return to a more overt labor supply system in agriculture, based on the H-2A guest worker visa program, much like the old bracero program.

The government uses raids and deportations against undocumented workers, much as it did during the bracero era of the 1950s, to provide a pretext for importing contract labor. ICE audits the records of growers, finds the names of undocumented people, and demands they be fired, while conducting deportation raids in farm worker communities. At the same time, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security certify grower applications to import a mushrooming number of H-2A contract workers-160,000 in 2016, 200,000 last year, and more predicted for this year.

"ICE uses audits and raids to create fear and anxiety," according to Armando Elenes, vice-president of the United Farm Workers. "People get afraid to demand their rights, or even just to come to work. Then growers demand changes to make H-2A workers even cheaper by eliminating wage requirements, or the requirement that they provide housing."

In 1965, once the threat of replacement by braceros was removed, strikers then built a strategy to force growers to negotiate. Of all the achievements of the grape strike, its most powerful and enduring was the boycott. It leveled the playing field in the fight with the growers over the right to form a union, and kept growers from using violence freely, as they'd done in previous decades. Armed grower militias had killed strikers in Pixley and El Centro, Calif.,in the 30s. Nagi Daifullah and Juan de la Cruz lost their lives in the grapes in the 1973 strike. Rufino Contreras was shot in a struck lettuce field in the Imperial Valley in 1979.

Non-violence, as urged by Cesar Chavez, was not universally accepted, however, especially by Filipino labor veterans. According to Mabalon, "Many of the members of the Filipino union, the AWOC, were veterans of the strikes of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s and were tough leftists, Marxists, and Communists. They met the violence of the growers with their own militancy, and carried guns and knives for self-defense. For them the drama of marching behind statues, hunger strikes, turn-the-other-cheek style was alien."

The boycott couldn't end grower violence entirely, but after farm workers crossed the enormous gulf between the fields and the big cities, they didn't have to fight by themselves. The political philosophy shared by most Filipino workers saw the strike as the fundamental weapon to win better conditions. Nevertheless, they could also see the boycott's power, and for several years during the strike Itliong was the national boycott organizer. This strategy gave new energy to the rest of the union movement, and led to the most powerful and important alliance between unions and communities in modern labor history. Today, similar alliances are the bedrock of progressive tactics among union activists across the country, helping to give labor struggles their character as social movements.

Cesar Chavez and Pete Velasco.  Photos by David Bacon

Filipinos and Mexicans: Uneasy Allies

Growers had pitted Mexicans and Filipinos against each other for decades. The alliance between Itliong's AWOC and the Cesar Chavez-led NFWA was a popular front of workers who had, in many cases, different politics. AWOC's members had their roots in the red UCAPAWA. NFWA's roots were in the Community Service Organization (CSO), which was sometimes hostile to Communists. Yet both organizations were able to find common ground and support each other during the strike, eventually forming the UFW.

Eliseo Medina, a farm worker who later became vice-president of one of the country's largest unions, the Service Employees, remembers: "Before the strike began, we lived in different worlds-the Latino world, the Filipino world, the African-American world and the Caucasian world. We co-existed but never understood who we were or what each other thought and dreamed about. It wasn't until the union began that we finally began to work together, to know each other and to begin to fight together."

Cold War fears of communism obscured the contributions of Itliong and the Filipinos. In his famous biography of Cesar Chavez in The New Yorker, writer Peter Matthiessen claimed: "Until Chavez appeared, union leaders had considered it impossible to organize seasonal farm labor, which is in large part illiterate and indigent..." In reality, many Filipino workers in Coachella and Delano were members of ILWU Local 37 in 1965, when the grape strike began. Every year they continued to travel from the San Joaquin Valley to the Alaska fish canneries. Through the end of their lives, they were often active members of both unions-Local 37 and the United Farm Workers.

But relations between Filipinos and Mexicans deteriorated after the grape strike. In the first UFW table grape contracts, won in 1970, the hiring hall system broke up the Filipino crews. These were, in effect, communities of single men who'd worked together for 30 or 40 years. Accusations of discrimination against Filipinos in hiring halls were widespread. Many Filipino leaders were foreman, with a tradition of bargaining for their workers with growers to win better wages and working conditions. Itliong mostly organized through them, to get whole crews on board. The 1970 contracts stripped away their powers. Some supported the Teamsters, who offered those foremen their power back during that union's raid on the UFW in 1973. But the most pro-union Filipino workers, including ones who had been foremen, stayed with the UFW. Relations grew even more difficult when Cesar Chavez visited dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. He then tried to use the Philippine consul in San Francisco to win over Filipino workers in UFW organizing drives. UFW vice-president Philip Vera Cruz resigned. Itliong had left even earlier. "Differences between the leadership and the rank and file in organizing styles and priorities, philosophies of organizing, and strategy began to pull the coalition apart," Mabalon says. Pete Velasco, however, one of the original AWOC leaders, stuck with the UFW, and was an executive board member when he died in 1995, two years after Chavez.

Conditions of Farm Workers Today

Overdependence on boycotts in the 1980s and 90s had a high price. In the fields there were few elections and even fewer strikes. As a result, Medina says, "Workers today are back where they were before the union. Most are working at minimum wage again. Employers are back to just trying to get the work done in the cheapest way possible, regardless of the impact on workers."

At the height of the union's power in the late 1970s the base farm wage was twice the minimum wage. Today that would be over $20 an hour. Doug Adair, a young white activist when the grape strike began, got a union job in the fields and worked there the rest of his life. He remembers, "When I worked under that first contract our wages and benefits were over double the minimum wage of American workers. We had a health plan that was the envy of many other unions. We could sit down with the growers and bargain over grievances. We wouldn't always win, but we could negotiate our working conditions."

California has a law recognizing the right of farm workers to form unions, and another that requires growers to negotiate first time contracts-both products of UFW political action. In the last decade those laws enabled the union to regain contracts where workers voted for it years ago. Today workers under union contract can enforce state restrictions on pesticide use and requirements for better safety conditions. Contract wages aren't what Adair remembers, but they're significantly higher than the farm labor average.

Nevertheless, today many workers earn less than the legal minimum, law or no. Growers tore down most labor camps in California in the era of the great strikes. As a result, thousands of migrant field laborers sleep under trees, in cars, or in the fields themselves as they travel with the harvest. Most workers have toilets and drinking water, and where they know their rights, they don't have to use the short-handled hoe, which caused debilitating back injuries to generations of farm workers before it was banned in California. But labor contractors, who were once replaced by union hiring halls, have retaken control of the fields. And as contractors compete to sell the labor of farm workers to the growers, they cut wages. Because contractors have the power to give work or to fire workers, the problem of sexual abuse in the fields has become rampant. They demand sex from women who need a job to support their families, or simply allow daily humiliation.

The lack of safe working conditions was dramatized by the death in 2008 of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who was denied shade and water and collapsed in 100-degree heat. The low value put on her life and that of workers like her was also dramatized-by the sentence of community service given by the state court to the labor contractor responsible. West Coast Farms, the grower, wasn't penalized at all, because it claimed the contractor was responsible for conditions in its grape field.

Rufino Dominguez, Mixteco migrant leader, talks with men who worked in the U.S. as braceros in the 1950s. Photo by David Bacon

A New Generation and the Legacy of Radicalism

But just as Larry Itliong followed the migration of Filipino workers from Seattle to Alaska and then back to California, the migration of workers today is offering similar opportunities to farm worker organizers. An upsurge among indigenous Mexican farm workers is sweeping through the Pacific coast. Work stoppages by Triqui and Mixteco blueberry pickers led to the organization of their independent union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia in Washington State. In the San Quintin Valley of Baja California, thousands of blueberry and strawberry pickers walked out for three weeks in 2015, organizing an independent union as well. In 2016 at the beginning of the blueberry picking season, indigenous Mexican workers at Gourmet Trading near Delano refused to go in to pick, and voted 347 to 68 for the UFW. Last year they signed their first union contract.

The indigenous Mexican workers in all of these strikes come from the same towns in Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Michoacan. They get the worst pay. According to the Indigenous Farm Worker Study, the median family income in 2008 was $13,750 for an indigenous family and $22,500 for a mestizo (non-indigenous) farm worker family. Neither is a living wage, but the differential reflects structural discrimination against indigenous people.

Activists and organizers in the movement of people from Oaxaca have radical politics and a history of activism, just as Mangaoang and Itliong did. One UFW organizer in McFarland, Aquiles Hernandez, from Santa Maria Tindu, belonged to the leftwing caucus in the Mexican teachers' union, was fired and imprisoned for 72 days.

Indigenous organizer Rufino Dominguez used migrant community networks to organize agricultural strikes in Mexico and later in California. Some of his ideas came from indigenous culture and the politics of leftwing organizations in Mexico. But some also came from the farm workers movement in California, with roots going back to those Filipino activists.

Thousands of people learned the skill of organizing in the grape strike and its aftermath. One of them, Rosalinda Guillen, helped organize FUJ and worked many years for the UFW. She says, "Today farm workers can organize because of what other farm workers did in the 60s and 70s in California. This is one of the most important legacies of Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez, this coming together of different workers with different religions and different political views."

In Trampling Out the Vintage, Frank Bardacke calls Itliong "a veteran old-style unionist [who] did not have the language of democracy in his arsenal." Yet Itliong spent a lifetime organizing workers in radical fights against growers. His contribution, and that of his generation of Filipino radicals, should be honored-not just because they helped make history, but because their political and trade union ideas are as relevant to workers now as they were in 1965. Those ideas, which they kept alive through the worst years of the Cold War, helped lead a renaissance of farm labor organizing that is still going on today.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Story and photos by David Bacon
Capital and Main - 4/13/18

For a complete set of images, click here

 In Salinas, California, on Sunday, over a thousand farm workers and allies filled the streets of its working-class barrio to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies, including an increase in immigration raids that, according to United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, are "striking terror in rural communities across California and the nation." It was one of six marches taking place this month in agricultural communities around California, Texas, and Washington state.

Highlighting the cost of the immigration crackdown was the deaths last month in Delano of husband and wife Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia Porfecto. On March 13, the couple, both farm workers, had just dropped off their daughter at school on their way to work when two black unmarked Jeeps with tinted windows, driven by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, stopped them. The couple drove off, but lost control of their car, hit a utility pole and flipped over, killing them both. They leave six children behind.

According to a police report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, immigration agents told police that they were not in "pursuit with emergency lights/sirens," but that surveillance footage appears to show the ICE vehicles following the couple with emergency lights flashing. The Delano Police Department have asked Kern County prosecutors to investigate the discrepancies in the immigration agents' accounts of the incident. On Monday, ICE spokesperson Richard Rocha sought to divert blame in a statement to the Times that sanctuary policies, "have pushed ICE out of jails," and "force our officers to conduct more enforcement in the community - which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public ... It also increases the likelihood that ICE will encounter other illegal aliens who previously weren't on our radar."

The marches, which also commemorated the birthday of UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez follow several months of UFW activity opposing immigration enforcement, and organizing workers to defend themselves against it. The union has distributed flyers in the fields that tell workers, "Don't sign anything and demand to speak with a lawyer. Take photographs, videos, and notes about what happens, including names, and license plates." It lists a toll-free number to call for help. 

Organizers are advised by the UFW Foundation to tell employers that ICE cannot enter the private area of their business without a signed judicial warrant, that in I-9 audits, employers have 3 work days to produce the forms, and that employers also have the right to speak to an attorney before answering questions or signing ICE documents.

In March, UFW protesters in Hanford, Visalia and Modesto picketed the offices of Republican Congressmen David Valadao, Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham, respectively. General meetings denouncing ICE actions were also held in Salinas and Orosi, and protests in Merced and Bakersfield.

"Do growers who supported and financed the campaign that put Donald Trump in office condone the climate of fear that is gripping farm worker communities?" a union statement asks. It points out that growers are currently supporting bills in Congress to remove protections from guest workers recruited in Mexico. "Such legislative schemes are aimed at driving down the wages and working conditions of all agricultural workers. We will fight them."

The Center for Immigration Studies, an arm of the anti-immigrant lobby in Washington, D.C., used Cesar Chavez' birthday to announce the launch of National Border Control Day "in tribute to the late labor leader and civil rights icon's forceful opposition to illegal immigration and support for strong border enforcement."

UFW spokesperson Marc Grossman called that "an abomination." A UFW statement in response said, "There are two separate and distinct issues - immigration reform and strikebreaking." The union had a controversial history of trying to use immigration enforcement to remove undocumented strikebreakers in strikes during the late 1960s and '70s, but the statement says that from the first grape strike "the UFW welcomed all farm workers into its ranks, regardless of immigration status."

It noted that the union opposed employer sanctions, which made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work, and lobbied for the amnesty provision in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that enabled one million undocumented farm workers to become legal residents. Given that the union's membership reflects the composition of farm workers generally, most of whom have no papers according to Farmworker Justice, a farm worker advocacy group in Washington DC, it is possible that a majority of the union's members are undocumented. 

According to Rodriguez, protesting immigration enforcement is part of defending farm laborers generally, both union and non-union. At the Salinas rally, Rodriguez told workers and supporters "Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia Porfecto, and their six orphaned children, are casualties of the Trump administration's targeting of hardworking immigrant farm workers who toil and sacrifice to feed all of us."

Monday, March 26, 2018



SAN LEANDRO, CA - 24MARCH18 - Students parents and teachers march to oppose gun violence in schools, in the March for Our Lives.  The march started at Washington ELementary School.

Full set of images, click here

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


By David Bacon,
Truthout | Book Review - 3/6/18

Members of Unite Here 2850, the hotel union for the East and North San Francisco Bay Area, show their opinion of Trump in the march protesting his inauguration.

"From Mission to Microchip - A History of the California Labor Movement"
By Fred Glass
University of California Press, 2016, 544pp, $34.95

A recent New York Times article detailed the ways California as a state has become the Trump administration's bête noire. According to reporter Tim Arango, the morning after Trump was elected, "Kevin de León, the State Senate leader, and his counterpart in the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, said they 'woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.'"

In the past year, California has declared itself a sanctuary state. It raised the minimum wage and expanded worker protections. It legalized recreational marijuana. Legislators declared they would not permit offshore oil drilling. They proposed making state taxes charitable contributions to keep them deductible with the IRS.

It might seem strange to activists under 40 to think that Los Angeles was the "citadel of the open shop" for almost a century. That the city that elected Rendon and De Leon had as mayor a conservative ally of President Nixon -- Sam Yorty -- and the country's most active and violent police "red squad." That Berkeley sent an extreme right-winger into the legislature who headed up California's own "Un-American Activities Committee." That the state was ruled by agribusiness with an iron hand, and farm workers who went on strike were beaten and murdered.

Arango credits California's rebellion to its racial diversity and growing Latino population. There's no doubt that state Republicans sealed their unpopularity in the days of Gov. Pete Wilson two decades ago. Their campaign for Proposition 187, which would have denied education and hospital care to the undocumented, convinced hundreds of thousands of immigrants to apply for citizenship just to be able to vote against the juggernaut.

But there's another good reason for the state's current politics: unions.

California has 2.55 million union members, more than any other state, more even than all the jobs in Minnesota. Runners-up New York has 1.9 million and Illinois has 812,000. About 15.9 percent of California workers belong to unions -- unchanged for the last few years. Because of its large population and workforce, it doesn't have the highest density -- New York (23.6 percent), Hawaii (19.9 percent), Alaska (18.5 percent), Connecticut (17.5 percent) and Washington State (17.4 percent) have a greater percentage of union workers.

But the state's labor movement has been able to translate its membership into a solid voting base, which has made these political changes possible.

Members of the San Francisco hotel union, Unite Here Local 2, march in support of undocumented immigrants in a Labor Day march in 2006.

How California got from one place to the other is an important story. It's not just that we're faced with a political onslaught that wants to return to what California looked like a hundred years ago; we need to know how we got here, and what lessons we can draw from this experience.

That's the knowledge that Fred Glass gives us in From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement (University of California Press, 2016). Glass helped found the Labor in the Schools Committee of the California Labor Federation two decades ago. He then produced Golden Lands, Working Hands, which has become the basic resource for educators introducing class concepts into classroom curricula. His new book is based on the research he did for the video, and on the lessons learned in using it.

The book's title is too limiting, I think. You can't look at the history of unions and working-class struggle in California as something isolated from the broad social movements that have changed the state, and the book is a deep and entertaining examination of that relationship.

Glass sees racism, discrimination against women and anti-immigrant pogroms as the fundamental social barriers that had to be fought in order for a progressive change to take place. Strikes, organizing drives and political mobilizations, he shows, all took place within this broader context.

In looking at the role of immigrants, he notes,

The demographic trend by which immigrant workers have fueled California's population increases will continue, in California and increasingly in other states. The high proportion of immigrants who come to this land to work ensures that a sizeable number will bring along familiarity with, and often sympathies for, the goals of organized labor. In some cases, that will include histories of union involvement ... young workers of color, including a high proportion of immigrants, are the future face of the workforce and the electorate. Because the labor movement has understood this fact and designed its efforts around it, California's unionization rate remains at 16 percent while the national average is 11 percent.

Glass begins his examination with the original inhabitants and workers of California: the Indigenous peoples who were enslaved by the Spanish missions, and then "produced the surplus agricultural products" that supplied the military stockades and the beginning of foreign trade. It is an important point, not just because he shows, as does Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in her work, the ghastly cost to Indigenous communities of Spanish and Mexican colonization, but because he sees in class terms the basic operation of the system: the production of value, and its expropriation by those with power. This class framework continues throughout the book.

Class conflict is, of course, part of the history of the United States and its capitalist system. The primitive accumulation of capital in California wasn't based on the chattel slavery of Africans, as it was in the US South. In fact, one of the most important fights as California was incorporated as a state in 1850 was to keep the slavers from expanding into its territory. Instead, the heaviest price was paid first by Native people, and then by the Mexican and Chinese population.

California became a state because of the gold fever, and Glass tells the story of gold's "discovery" at Sutter's Fort, and documents the terrible conditions for miners as they came pouring in. Yet the first miners were the Mexicans, who earlier traveled north from Sonora. They then found themselves foreigners in their own land after California and other states were taken from Mexico in the war of 1848. A guerilla war raged for several years, as those miners fought to keep their claims. The names of the many people hung in the gold fields were all Spanish, and California's first law was the foreign miner's tax act, intended to dispossess the Sonoran miners.

Glass balances his respect for the way workers then organized themselves over the following decades with a careful account of the attacks, especially on Chinese workers brought to build railroads and drain river deltas. He tells the story of the first teacher activist, and an early woman labor leader, Kate Kennedy, and the birth of the first unions -- for typographers, teamsters and carpenters.

Alexander Kenaday, founder of the typographical union, organized San Francisco's first labor council, and began the fight to get the eight-hour day in 1865, when the Civil War wasn't yet over. A long fight it's been. This year, California's legislature finally passed a bill giving farm workers and domestic workers overtime after eight hours -- people excluded from laws passed even at labor's moments of greatest strength. California is still the only state (except Hawaii) that has such a law for farm workers, and one of only a handful with a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

Members of the janitors union, United Service Workers West, sit down in a downtown Los Angeles intersection in 2011, to protest the firing of immigrant workers.

In tracing California workers' and unions' long movement toward racial unity, a movement far from complete, Glass pays particular attention to one of the most important and formative efforts: when workers harvesting sugar beets in Oxnard organized the Japanese Mexican Labor Association and struck in 1903. They applied to affiliate their organization with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and AFL President Samuel Gompers refused a charter because their union included Japanese workers. The head of the Mexican workers, J.M. Lizarras, supported by Socialist leaders of the Los Angeles Labor Council, replied, "We would be false to them and to ourselves and to the cause of unionism if we accepted privileges for ourselves which are not accorded to them."

Glass notes the role the Mexican anarcho-syndicalist brothers Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón played in the growing Los Angeles labor movement. When they sought to build the Liberal Party to overthrow Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, LA's labor movement mounted their legal defense. The book makes plain that debates over the role of Mexican immigrant activists in the US and the need for cross-border solidarity were going on almost a century before NAFTA went into effect.

Glass covers the seminal events in the labor movement's growth, and in the debates over its tactics and political direction: the bombing of the LA Times (now in the midst of another union organizing drive), the rise of the IWW in the state's fields, the first unions in Hollywood, and finally, the great debate over industrial unionism in the wake of the Depression.

During Occupy Oakland in 2011, the unions of the Alameda County Labor Council organized a march in support of Occupy.

From Missions to Microchip doesn't just cover events, it describes the politics and political organizations of labor's activists and organizers, especially on the left. Communists organized the great strikes in the fields. Los Angeles's garment workers were organized by Socialists.

This complete way of telling labor's story is most important in recounting its two watershed political moments. Glass gives readers the San Francisco General Strike in detail, and the role of left-wing organizers, especially Communist workers, is clear. An organized left, and the struggles and debates it provoked, prepared the ground for the fight for unions along the waterfront, the rise of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (one of the country's most progressive), and the consolidation of the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] on the West Coast. San Francisco became a labor town, and has stayed a labor town, because of that conflict. In the middle of that strike, longshore leaders forged an alliance with the city's Black communities to end discrimination on the docks. ILWU Local 10 is a majority-Black union today as a consequence.

The other experience that shaped California unions, as it did labor throughout the country, was the Cold War. The story of The Hollywood Ten is, after all, a labor story. The Cold War and its blacklists followed, by no coincidence, the strikes to win unions in Hollywood, and eventually propelled Ronald Reagan into the White House. The expulsion of the left, and purge of Communist, Socialist and left-wing workers and leaders in the Cold War weakened unions across the country. California unions survived better than they did in many places. Although the ILWU was expelled from the CIO because of its Communist and left-wing history, it had consolidated control over the waterfront to such a degree that it couldn't be dislodged, and helped keep progressive politics alive in West coast cities.

Glass pays a lot of attention to the long history of farm worker unions, and makes it plain that the United Farm Workers (UFW) didn't rise from nowhere, but called on the experience that Filipino, Mexican, Black and white workers gained in organizing and strikes over previous decades.

Labor activists still debate many of the questions around the life of the UFW. Today we see the growth of guest-worker programs again, much like the bracero program whose end in 1964 set the stage for the great Delano Grape Strike of 1965. California's Supreme Court just upheld part of the state's farm worker labor law that requires the mandatory mediation of first-time contracts, the only law of its kind and one that most unions would kill for. The union itself is still active, but has far fewer members than it did at its height at the end of the 1970s. From Mission to Microchip describes the history and notes the debates, leaving it to the activist to plunge into them by reading further.

Finally, Glass takes the reader through the rebuilding process coming out of the Cold War: the organization of teachers (his own union) and other public employees, health care workers, janitors and drywalleros. The changing politics of Los Angeles, it makes clear, came as a result of the rise of Justice for Janitors, the hotel workers union UNITE HERE Local 11, and the organization of workers' centers among immigrants, women and workers of color.

With a history so filled with contention and debate, strikes and their violent repression, and conflict over racism and left-wing politics, it might be counterintuitive to think that California's labor movement would emerge strong and progressive. Yet this is what happened. From Mission to Microchip tells the story. Perhaps the lesson here is that left-wing politics, debate and class conflict are not harmful to workers and unions, but in fact the very things that help them find direction and organize.

That is a lesson that deserves to be in the classrooms where the children of working-class families lay claim to their own history.

Monday, March 5, 2018


By David Bacon
Capital & Main, 3/5/18

Paola, after the phone call

Paola was standing outside the West County Detention Facility, a prison in Richmond, California for 150 to 300 people awaiting deportation, when she got the phone call.  She'd been fearing it for days.  Florencio, her husband, was in another detention center in Arizona, calling to tell her that la migra (immigration agents) had caught him in the desert, walking north with a dozen others.

Paola (not her real name) hadn't spoken to Florencio for several weeks, not since the day before he crawled into the luggage compartment of a bus in Puebla in southern Mexico.  The bus, he hoped, would take him close to the U.S. border.

It had already been a harrowing journey for himself and Paola's brother Lorenzo.  "After we left Guatemala and crossed the river into Mexico, we wound up in a kind of camp in Chiapas," Florencio recalls. "There were hundreds of people there." When the day to leave on the long trip north finally arrived, the coyotes running the camp organized a kind of shape up.  It was not that different from the stories told by an earlier generation of migrants, the braceros (contract farm laborers), who remember being herded together at Mexican way stations, inspected and shipped to the border between 1942 and 1964.

Vigil participant

"Different coyotes called us by numbers, separating us into groups," Florencio says.  "Then they put 80 or 90 of us into the back of a truck.  There was so little space we had to stand pushed up against each other like sardines.  It was a bumpy ride, and soon people began to get sick and faint, especially the pregnant women.  They stopped the truck and gave us pills and lemons, but people were already throwing up and the smell was terrible."

The ride resumed, but after 12 hours the people inside began to bang on the walls.  Hearing the noise, the driver pulled over.  "He let us out and told us to run around a little," Florencio says.  "Then we got back in, and it was another 12 hours."  When the truck got to Puebla, Florencio called Paola to tell her he was coming.

During the vigil organized by Mujeres Unidas y Activas

He got through the next stage from Puebla hidden in the luggage compartment of a bus.  That took him to Sonora.  There, in a house near the border, the group faced another obstacle.  "The mafia guys came and told us they controlled this territory, and we had to pay another $1,000 to get to the line to cross," Florencio says. "Some of us knew this would happen, and we'd already paid the coyote. I don't know what happened to the others.  Soldiers came, but they didn't see any problems, and let us keep moving."

Not having money to pay at this stage could have been fatal.  In the last decade mass graves of migrants have been discovered across the desert of Mexico's northern states.  Many guess that these were migrants too broke to pay the toll.  Perhaps others were robbed and then killed.

For Florencio's group, actually crossing the line wasn't the big problem.  It was getting to a place north of it, where they could get picked up by a van to take them to Phoenix.  To get to the meeting place, they had to walk three days in the heat through rocks, sand and sagebrush.  "On the third day one boy from my hometown got pains in his stomach, and began fainting," Florencio says. "At first I said we had to stay with him, but the coyote said we had to leave him and that the Border Patrol would find him.  If we stayed we'd all be caught."

Paola and Teresa

In the end, that's what happened anyway.  The group passed across a freeway, but then Florencio began hearing helicopters.  They all ran.  He tried hiding under a bush, but an agent on a motorcycle found him.  He was taken to a detention center close by.  When he called Paola, it was the day of the monthly vigil in front of the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, nearly 900 miles north.

"I was there with people from the church who were helping us," Paola remembers.  "We'd been praying for people they knew who were inside, and we began singing.  Then my cell phone rang.  I was so afraid of getting that call, but I knew what it would be.  Then they were praying for me."  She collapsed into the arms of a church member next to her, both of them weeping.


At the end of the detention center vigil, the people assembled there clap, shout and make enough noise that the detainees inside can hear them.  "We want them to know we're here, that someone knows they're inside, and that our community cares what happens to them," explains Reverend Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI).  "When we started in 2011 our idea was to put out a call to people of faith and conscience concerned about what was happening to immigrants, to bear witness and provide a way for them to act on that concern."

On the first Saturday of the month, a church or congregation brings its members to the center to bear witness.  For an hour they speak out, much in the style of a Quaker meeting, remembering migrants who've suffered as a result of U.S. policies of detention and deportation.  They sing, pray, make impassioned political speeches condemning the immorality of the center looming behind them, and talk about the reasons why people are forced into migrating to begin with.

As the years have gone by, the vigils have changed.  At first they were made up mostly of congregations from progressive, middle-class churches. Then some of those churches went from hosting vigils to providing sanctuary to migrant families threatened with deportation.  Churches have raised funds for bonds and emergency support, found housing and rides for released detainees, and accompanied newcomer families.  "Accompaniment," a term used by faith and solidarity activists, came out of efforts to protect activists in El Salvador from the death squads in the 80s.  People show their solidarity with those who are in danger by accompanying them, physically or by helping them survive.  Today it's applied to migrants as well - activists support a family by giving them sanctuary, helping them find food and shelter, getting them legal help.

As sanctuary congregations have multiplied to 32 throughout the Bay Area, migrants themselves have increasingly participated in the vigils.  "We always include testimony from directly impacted families as well as a call to action," Lee adds.  "We started very small-15 to 20-and now it's averaging 100 people."

Rev. Deborah Lee

Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church helped Paola and her mother, who fled violence in Guatemala in 2014, gain refugee status.  The family then came to the vigil at the West County Detention Facility to speak out.  "Because these families are with us, they provide a first-hand account of why they were forced to leave home,"Lee said at the vigil, urging other congregations to get involved. "We hear the pain of the separation of their families in their voices and see it in their eyes."

St. John's was one of the first churches to give sanctuary to immigrants.  "In the early 1980s we saw people fleeing the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and felt we had to do something to help them," says Fred Goff, a member of the congregation who brought Teresa and Paola to the vigil.

The vigils have grown to involve more than people of faith.  Some have been organized by immigrant community organizations, like Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which organizes immigrant working women in San Francisco and the East Bay.  Local high schools and colleges have organized others, and a Jewish congregation, Kehilla Community Synagogue, has started its own vigil on second Sundays.  When workers at a local foundry were fired for not having immigration papers, Lee and the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition began meeting with them in the Lutheran Church near the University of California, Berkeley campus, working with a labor/community coalition called the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE).  A few workers came to a vigil, and people of faith helped organize a community march and hunger strike to protest anti-immigrant firings.

During the vigil organized by Mujeres Unidas y Activas

After hearing from people like Teresa and Paola, Rev. Lee and IM4HI began holding meetings throughout the Bay Area to talk about the reasons for forced displacement and migration, and for the growth of the detention and deportation industry.  For two years she's organized delegations to Central America together with La Fundación SHARE, to support social justice movements there, and to give congregations in California a first-hand experience of the reasons why people leave home.

Over many Saturdays, the vigils have provided a way for activists to reach out to people inside the center as well.  On a recent Saturday, Lourdes Barraza and her daughters Sofia, Isabel and Anna, waited to hear news of Fernando, her husband and the girls' father.  The following Tuesday would be Fernando's birthday, and he'd already spent three months inside, staring at the concrete walls of his cell.

Reverend Pablo Morataya gathered members of his congregation at the First Hispanic Presbyterian Church in east Oakland, a sanctuary congregation, as well as other pastors and lay ministers serving immigrant congregations throughout the Bay Area.  They went to the detention center to hold a vigil for Fernando.  "There are risks," Pastor Morataya says, "but for us it is a calling of our faith."

Rev. Pablo Morataya comforts Lourdes Barraza

At the vigil for Fernando, one of Lourdes' daughters had written birthday greetings on a large card, and placed it on an overturned milk crate covered with a cloth.  First one boy stepped forward and signed it.  Then two older congregants did the same.  Finally a line stretched out of people adding their names and greetings.

Despite the support and greetings for Lourdes and her daughters, it was still an awful experience to think of Fernando inside.  They'd tried to arrange bail for him so that he would be able to come home.  "But they told me he didn't qualify because he'd already been deported once," Lourdes explained. "He's been living in this country for many years.  He is not a threat to society. All he does is work, and all I do is work, too.  I don't know how we'll survive without him.  I need my husband and the girls need their father."

She broke down and began crying.

Lourdes Barraza speaks out in front of the detention center

In October Fernando was dropping off the youngest of their three daughters at her daycare center in San Jose.  As he pulled away from the curb, he saw he was being followed by the vehicles that figure in the nightmares of millions of immigrants-the green cars of la migra.

He must have wondered whether he could run for it, and what that might mean for his family.  He decided instead to pull into a shopping mall parking lot.  The ICE agents jumped out of their cars, put him in cuffs, and took him to a detention center.  When he was finally able to call his home, all he could do was leave a message:  "Don't worry. I am not going to get deported right away; just stay calm."

Children of a detainee

Quick deportation was indeed a big danger.  Fernando had been deported in 2012, Lourdes recalled. He was picked up on a Friday and in Tijuana by the following Sunday.  But he came back because she was here.  His family, his life - all were in San Jose, not Tijuana.  Like Paola and Florencio, the bonds of love and life would not and could not be denied.

To ICE, however, being deported once before makes you a criminal subject to jail and to their euphemism for deportation-"removal."  Since October Fernando has been imprisoned in the West County Detention Facility, nearly 60 miles from San Jose.  When he appealed to be released on bail, ICE field director David Jennings refused.

"I could not believe it was all happening again," Lourdes told Cindy Knoebell, a volunteer for Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  "I told our daughters that their father had been detained and they completely broke down sobbing. My oldest is now on an independent study program because she can barely get out of bed in the morning. It is tough because I am alone now and have to take care of my daughters' needs without any help.  I am completely consumed by fear and anxiety. I worry constantly about how long I'll be able to keep a roof over our heads."

A daughter thinking about her father

Knoebell reports that Lourdes debated for a long time whether to come to the vigil and speak.  She'd heard about many other families facing the same disaster.  "But we have nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

Inside the detention center the monthly noise has not only let Fernando know there are supporters outside.  It has also encouraged detainees to begin protesting what they say are terrible conditions.

The West County Detention Facility is housed in a much larger jail, one of four Contra Costa County lockups.  Its official capacity is 1,096 people, of whom 150 to 300 are detainees in the facility run by ICE, which pays $6 million a year to the county for using it.  Some immigration detainees are held because ICE says they're in the country illegally.  Others are asylum seekers who are detained immediately on arrival in the U.S. or legal residents with past offenses (often very minor ones) that makes them deportable.

So they await a hearing before an immigration judge.  That hearing, however, is not the normal courtroom procedure one might imagine.  The judge sits in a room in the ICE building on Sansome Street in San Francisco.  The immigrant sits in a room at the detention center in Richmond.  The hearing takes place over the Internet.  If immigrants have a lawyer, their chances of staying in the U.S. are better, but odds are not good even then.

A vigil participant shows support for the people inside

People like Fernando wait, while weeks stretch into months and even years.

In October the immigration detainees went public about what that waiting is like.  In a letter written to CIVIC by one of the prisoners, Nancy Meyer, and signed by 27 others, women described being held in cells for 23 hours a day.  While regular inmates in the county jail section of the facility get classes and other resources, the immigration detainees don't.

The cells are grouped in pods, with a bathroom that is supposed to serve them all.  There are no toilets in the cells.  If the cell door is locked, a prisoner has to ask to be let out in order to go to the bathroom.  While Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston says doors are normally open, the women signing the letter denied this.  Instead, they charged, they're told to "hold it" and have to urinate or defecate into plastic bags.

Lourdes Barraza

One detainee told immigration Judge Joseph Park in October that she that she preferred being deported to staying in the jail.  In a phone interview with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Otis R. Taylor, Dianny Patricia Menendez said detainees put the plastic bags over a trash can in order to go to the bathroom.  Their one hour of free time to make calls to family or take a shower is often canceled, she added.

ICE did not respond to the allegations of bad conditions.  However, Taylor wrote that the detainees who spoke with him were later punished by being denied soap, shampoo and the chance to brush their teeth.

Immigrant women supporting each other

Senator Dianne Feinstein was one of several elected officials to protest.  She wrote acting ICE director Thomas Homan in December, saying, "It has been reported that the conditions are so deplorable that detainees are requesting deportation over pursuing claims in immigration court."  Criticism also came from U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Richmond), State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

Outside the West County jail, a few minutes after Paola got the call from Florencio saying he'd been caught, she got a second one that frightened her even more.  Her brother Lorenzo was hiding in a small community between Tucson and the border.  He'd been traveling with Florencio, but the coyotes separated them in northern Sonora.

Holding hands is part of the vigil ritual

Once across the border, Lorenzo lost his own group, and a friendly resident gave him temporary refuge in a garage.  Terrified that the Border Patrol, which was constantly circulating in the area, would find him, he called Teresa.  At the vigil, church members began making calls to Arizona, trying to find help.  Finally a person was contacted who drove down from Tucson and rescued him.

It was only a temporary respite, however.  Not long afterwards Lorenzo was picked up and deported.  When he calls Teresa and Paola these days, it's from Guatemala once again.

Paola is comforted after getting the call

Since Florencio had tried to cross the border twice before and had been caught, he wasn't deported immediately when he was picked up in Arizona.  Instead, he was charged in the special court for immigrants in Tucson, Operation Streamline.  Afterwards he spent seven months in an Arizona prison before finally being released on bail while he appeals his deportation order.

To Rev. Lee, the stories of Florencio, Lorenzo and Fernando, with their repeated attempts to cross the border to reunite with their families, are a natural human response to separation.  She cited another example in an opinion piece she cowrote with Bob Lane, a faith leader at EBASE, for the San Jose Mercury News.  "Consider the story of Alfonso Martinez Sanchez, a 39-year-old father of five U.S. citizen children and his family's main breadwinner, she wrote. "Five years ago, a trip to a store to buy milk led to a senseless deportation. Alfonso repeatedly tried to come home to his family.  Wouldn't you?  The Border Patrol arrested Alfonso several times, but he never gave up on his family. He died of heatstroke in the desert trying to reunite."

"We are at your side!"

When Rev. Lee thinks about what's happened to Paola and Teresa, to Florencio and Lorenzo, to Lourdes and her three children, to Fernando, it's clear to her that for them to survive people have to act.  "We can't just watch the immigration policy of this country play itself out and do nothing, while ICE and the Border Patrol hunt people down and tear their families apart," she said at a recent vigil.  "The administration talks about our efforts to protect people and fight this detention system as though this was just a state or a city passing a law to defy their enforcement efforts.  What they don't understand is that these laws exist because our community is making a moral commitment and acting on it, and our representatives are responding to that.  Sanctuary isn't just a law.  It's our community defending people in danger."

Sanctuary is a vigil in front of the detention center.

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