Rallying for immigrant rightsby Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
For the first time in nearly two decades, there was no big Labor Day picnic in St. Paul this year. Union organizers canceled the event because of a lack of funding and volunteers. But several unions were involved in another Twin Cities rally today. Hundreds of people marched for immigrant and workers rights.
St. Paul, Minn. — The sun warmed up Castillo Park on St. Paul's west side, as immigrant rights supporters gathered for music ranging from Native American drumming to hip hop.
The event was organized by labor unions and groups calling for changes to the nation's immigration laws. The groups want legal citizenship for all undocumented workers. They also oppose President Bush's plan to send National Guard troops to patrol the U-S-Mexico border.
Leaders from several unions and churches voiced their support for immigrant workers. Local president Don Sequest from the United Food and Commercial Workers says more than six-hundred of the union's members are Spanish-speaking immigrants. He says the face of the labor movement is changing.
"Our union today along with many others will work for the dignity and respect that all workers deserve, regardless of the language they speak, the color of their skin, or where they were born," he says.
The people at the rally then took to the streets, marching up Cesar Chavez street and around the West Side.
One of the event organizers is Francisco Segovia from the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition. Segovia says he was an undocumented worker when he first came to the U.S. from El Salvador. He's now a U.S. citizen who manages a community center. Segovia doesn't like the idea of a guest worker program.
"If you have or provide some sort of visa to some individuals, what we are creating is a second class of workers, and we don't want that," Segovia says. "We are in a nation where it is well known for respecting people's rights, and human rights, therefore, if that's what it is, then workers have to have the same equal rights as everybody else."
Segovia says organizers held the rally on Labor Day to celebrate the contributions of undocumented workers to the nation's economy. Critics point out that undocumented workers are here illegally, and have ignored the legal pathway to citizenship that other immigrants have followed.
- All Things Considered, 09/04/2006, 5:49 p.m.