Immigrant Rights Are Workers Rights

Bad policies that harm working Americans continue to chip away at our aspirations to strive.
04/25/2017 11:51 am ET Updated Apr 26, 2017
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By Thomas Kennedy

What does it mean to be an immigrant and a worker in the United States? With May 1 around the corner around the corner, it is a question worth asking.

Immigrants are working families and they are under attack like never before in this country.

Donald Trump’s administration pursues unprecedented attacks on immigrant and refugee families. Raids on immigrant families are escalating. Mothers who have been here for over a decade have been ripped from the arms of their children. Immigrants with legal status have been unlawfully detained. The deportation police have targeted schools and even gone to courts to track down domestic abuse victims.

At the same time, the basic resources families need to get by are under threat. It is becoming harder to pay for doctors when we are sick, earn good wages that allow us to feed our families and keep a roof over our heads or receive paid family leave so we can spend time with young babies. More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, live below the poverty line.

For example, instead of moving to improve the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicare, the GOP instead attempted to pass a new controversial health care bill, which would have resulted in a $600 billion tax cut for the rich at the expense of leaving up to 24 million Americans without health care.

I grew up undocumented and my father almost lost his ability to walk because he could not get health care and treatment he needed to treat a chronic condition. I understand the acute stress that immigrants and working people go through in times of hardship. According to a Federal Reserve poll, around 47% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and a family crisis such as a medical ailment can quickly become an existential threat.

Keeping families together is an American value that must be defended with all the urgency and passion we can muster.

Bad policies that harm working Americans continue to chip away at our aspirations to strive and do better financially than our parents. But this moment has also sparked a wave of activism and organizing not seen in a long time in this country. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in marches that have touched on issues like Women’s rights, support for science, the release of Trump’s taxes, climate change, and opposition to the Muslim ban.

On May 1 in cities, towns, and communities across the country, hundreds of thousands of people will rise up in resistance to demonstrate the power, resilience, and strength of immigrant communities and progressives in America.

Keeping families together is an American value that must be defended with all the urgency and passion we can muster.

This May Day we will continue to take to the streets to call for what we believe is a progressive platform centered on people that truly empowers and looks out for our communities. We call for a return to real and humane debate over immigration, a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, the end of the for-profit prison system, affordable college education, voter restoration rights to the thousands of disenfranchised voters across the country, equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and climate justice to protect communities, such as those in Florida, that are on the front lines of climate change and sea level rise.

President Trump has attempted to discredit these protests by obfuscating crowd sizes and claiming that protestors are paid. It is concerning to see these efforts to undermine the First Amendment of everyday people who seek to have their voices and grievances hurt, which is why it’s more important than ever that people not only protest but also get more deeply involved to fight back against these policies which hurt our country.

This May 1st join over 42 organizations across the country that make up Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and join the fight to protect working and immigrant families across the country, the latter which contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and nearly $224 billion in federal taxes, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.

America becomes a greater nation when we stand together and reject racism, hatred, and bigotry, and work together to build a better future for everyone. Find a May Day event near you at www.riseupmay1.org.

Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change.

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