Farmworkers Protest Immigration Changes

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Demonstrations against a crackdown on illegal immigrants will likely include thousands of undocumented farmworkers in California. A march and rally is scheduled for the center of Bakersfield, Calif.


This is Mandalit Del Barco, in Bakersfield, California, where thousands of farm workers today left the fields to make their voices heard.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

DEL BARCO: Some of them held up signs that read, we are America, we help feed America, and Yo amo America, I love America. Some of them said they were undocumented workers, others legal immigrants, taking off time from work to be here. They wore white t-shirts and held up flags, the U.S. flag, the Mexican flag, and the flag from the United Farm workers. Dolores Huerta, one of the cofounders of the United Farm workers, was here to celebrate her birthday and also to march.

Ms. DOLORES HUERTA (Cofounder, United Farm Workers): You know, they're going to say, well, these are all undocumented people marching. No. These are, everybody here is united. We have the religious, the churches, we have labor unions, we have business, we have students, we have civic organizations. We have women's organizations. We're all together to ask for a just legalization bill in the U.S. Congress.

DEL BARCO: Huerta noted that the UFW has fought for undocumented workers since the days of the braceros, Mexicans who were brought here to serve as guest workers in the 1950s. During today's march, Cal State Bakersfield professor Gonzalo Santos expressed some of the local outrage.

Professor GONZALO SANTOS (Sociology, California State University Bakersfield): We, the immigrants living in the United States, are fed up with all these xenophobic attacks on our communities. And we are particularly appalled and outraged at the latest callous attempts by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives to harshly criminalize 12 million of those among us who are in this country maybe without papers, but who are the ones, are law-abiding, tax-paying, hard-working members of this community, contributing to the wealth and well-being of this country. We are here today to say that immoral law shall not pass.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

DEL BARCO: Sixty-one-year-old Marcano Ruiz(ph) is a member of the United Farm Workers. He says he took the day off from working a field, picking oranges.

Mr. MARCANO RUIZ (Immigrant, California): (Speaking Spanish)

DEL BARCO: Ruiz says immigrants are not terrorists or criminals but they're here to work. And he says what we see here is a growing revolution.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Bakersfield, California.

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