Local councilmen, labor leaders and agriculture business owners demanded Wednesday that Rep. Devin Nunes push for comprehensive immigration reform, calling for change in the “broken” immigration system.
The panel of multicultural speakers, organized by the Fresno State College Democrats, gathered together at the Free Speech Area and spoke out against an immigration process they say denies labor workers the fundamental right of citizenship.
The group is calling for Republican Nunes, the U.S. representative of California’s 22nd District that Fresno State falls within, to take action and push for a vote in the House. The speakers held signs of protest during the event, such as, “Against Rep. Nunes: 74% of District Voters want Immigration Reform.”
Fresno City Council member Oliver Banes said granting citizenship to working immigrants is “the right thing to do.”
“It’s a civil rights problem,” he said. “It’s wrong if we allow people to work here, to play here, but not give them the same rights.”
In Banes’ eyes, the current immigration system is creating an “underclass,” an issue he believes government needs to quickly address.
Blong Xiong, also a Fresno City Council member, claimed that many immigrants’ version of the “American Dream” is a pathway to citizenship for themselves and their families.
“We want to make sure this is our home as well, not only for us, but for our children,” Xiong said.
Matt Rogers, chair of the Fresno County Young Democrats, emphasized the injustice when the “hardest-working people in the state of California [immigrant workers]” are often denied minimum wage and overtime pay. He also highlighted the sexual abuse of women as one of the hardships among life in the fields.
Rogers, who grew up in a farming family, reflected on his personal experience with immigrants while harvesting every summer.
“I made friends in those fields, and I remember what a different life the people that I worked with lived,” he said. “They worked hard. They paid taxes. They paid into the Social Security System. Yet they were denied the very basic human right of citizenship by the government.”
In addition to criticizing Nunes, the speakers called upon House Speaker John Boehner to do more in regards to immigration reform. Rogers said it was rare for farmers, ranchers and the United Farmworkers Union to all agree the government needs to take action.
“The immigration system is broken,” Rogers said. “Congress needs to do its job, and it needs to fix it.”
Fresno State Chicano and Latin American studies professor Dr. Victor Torres stated that Congress needs to “stop playing politics” with immigrants.
“This is a question of ethics and morality. This is a matter of social justice,” Torres said.