This year’s anniversary of the birth of Cesar Chavez comes at a time of high hopes for passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Chavez’s tireless fight for the rights of farm workers and the poor serves as an inspiration as we face today’s challenge.
The agriculture sector has largest proportion of undocumented workers of almost any sector of the economy. It is in the fields that one witnessed and continues to see as no where else the vulnerability and the exploitation of these laborers.
Comprehensive immigration reform is the way to tackle this problem. Among the goals of changes in the immigration system are stabilizing the work force in industry and regularizing the illegal status of workers. This has the potential to create a new situation in which the contributions of agricultural workers are reconsidered.
This is absolutely necessary.
Still today, federal labor laws that govern all U.S. work places exclude farm workers, such as statutes that bar child labor. It is estimated that close to 75% of all farm workers lack health insurance despite the fact that they are more exposed to fatal accidents at work than other laborers.
These are just some of the injustices that continue today. Those who carry on the struggle of Chavez are fighting in the courts, in the legislatures, and through peaceful demonstrations.
Much of the vulnerability experienced by undocumented farm workers is shared by those undocumented immigrants who live in the suburbs, and in cities large and small.
The transformative power of Chavez’s activism is needed now as much as ever. Today’s struggle against injustice and the exploitation of the undocumented takes the form of comprehensive immigration reform.
We fervently believe that the example and memory of Cesar Chavez lives in this struggle and provides inspiration.