Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers of America, was the keynote speaker at the Lets Talk #Immigration Student Forum Thursday night which gathered a crowd of more than 50 people.
He was accompanied by a panel of experts, including Diana Tellefson-Torres, the executive director of the United Farm Workers Foundation; Brisa Cruz, Fresno State student and member of Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action; Raul Moreno, coordinator of the Dream Outreach Center at Fresno State; Amparo Cid, program officer for the Sierra Health Foundation; and Leoncio Vasquez executive director of the Centro Binacional Para El Desarollo Indigena Oaxaqueno.
The free event was hosted by Fresno State’s Dream Outreach Center as part of the 50th anniversary founding of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.
Rodriguez opened up the event by discussing what UFW has been doing for the past five years. He talked about how things are improving for farm workers including contracting with employers, pay and benefit raises, adding extra water breaks and tents during the summer time and fighting against the use pesticides.
“These contracts have been important for those workers in terms of boosting pay and benefits,” he said. “It’s critical we continue to do this kind of work in regards to improving those things. In addition, because of that work we’ve paid off now over the past decade about $500 million in benefits for farm workers in regards to medical benefits and pension benefits when they retire. The beauty about both of those in all the contracts that we have they extend to every farm worker regardless of what their legal status might be.”
Some of the topics of the discussion included healthcare, continuation of education, new technology for farm workers and struggles immigrant students face.
Cruz opened up about being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student at Fresno State. DACA, is an American immigration policy that allows a certain amount of undocumented immigrants who have entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.
As this is her last semester at Fresno State, Cruz said she plans continue to fight for immigrant rights. Her brother did not qualify for DACA and neither did her parents.
Amy Saldana, employee of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, came to the event to hear out what the keynote speaker had to say as well as what the discussion panel had to say.
“I know I’ll gain a lot of knowledge out of this, that’s for sure,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of family members who have been in this kind of situation. It really helps, not just for my family but for people I know as well.”
Moreno encouraged students who have questions about immigration or need help to visit The Dream Outreach Center on campus. The center provides undocumented students with personal guidance and professional development.