Everyone seems to be talking about immigration these days. In the Fort Lauderdale airport where I work, a lot of my friends and co-workers from Haiti, Venezuela and other countries talk about how immigration reform will benefit their families and communities. But as an African-American woman, a union member and an airport worker who has lived in Florida my entire life, it will benefit me too.
I grew up in Central Florida around a lot of horse farms. When I was little, segregation was still the official way of life. I would see different signs for "whites" and "coloreds" at drinking fountains. But I also saw how hard it was for the work of my grandmother (a housekeeper) and other family members to be respected.
Maybe that is why my immigrant friends come to me when they have problems, because I know what it is like to not be respected. To be honest, a lot of my immigrant friends, neighbors and co-workers struggle with disrespect daily at their workplaces. Some are made to feel like they are taking jobs from "real Americans," whatever that means. Others are told to go back to their country. But the ones with no papers are treated with the least respect and fear speaking up against any little thing.
One thing I learned as a union-member is that when any worker is afraid to speak up or unable to stand up after being disrespected, it affects everyone fighting for a better workplace and a better life. That is why I support immigration reform. No one should have to be afraid at work. No one should be afraid to stand up. Not the people who are born here that go to work to support their families or the ones that come here seeking a better life for their families.
I really hope our politicians don't just spend a bunch of time talking about immigration reform. It's time for them come together and pass a good bill that will help out my immigrant neighbors, friends and co-workers so that they can live with dignity and respect. Believe me, we all benefit when we are all respected.