Cross-border organizing and a broad sanctuary movement bring our social class together
Tribuno del Pueblo reporter Cathleen Williams interviewed longtime immigration-rights activist Nativo Lopez on a visit to the California state capital, Sacramento, in late May.
TRIBUNO: Nativo, you are a leader of the organization, Hermandad Mexicana. Tell me about Hermandad Mexicana.
NATIVO: Hermandad Mexicana was founded in 1951 by officials and organizers of the International Laborers Union, to defend against the deportations and job terminations in the war industries during Operation Wetback.
Veterans were coming back. The lack of citizenship was a good excuse to cast out the Mexicans and deport them, but nevertheless continue to allow contracted workers, for the most part in the railroad industry and agriculture, under the Bracero program, from 1942 to 1964.
The organization has continued since that date basically as a membership organization, as a union-assistance organization, as an advocacy organization for fair and humane policies and practices.
TRIBUNO: What is the prospect of an expanded ” guest worker” program for migrant and immigrant workers?
NATIVO: My theory is, that with Trump you have the more vicious face of immigration policies. Obama represented a “happy face.” The continuation of deportations is intended to set our people up for some form of immigration-reform legislation, which is going to look like a massive guest-worker program.
They want to control the flow and the existence of people who are here who will provide cheap labor. They already do, but with free labor, you have the ability to move around, you have the ability to organize, as difficult as that may be.
But now you’ve signed up for a program that restricts your rights even further. You are controlled. So it’s not unfettered labor. It’s not free labor. You will be terminated and deported if you organize.
TRIBUNO: What is the most effective message we can give both to the migrant community that’s under attack and the people who are ready to push back?
NATIVO: I like to focus on real family values. They talk about family values in a very hypocritical manner, but they are the purveyors of the separation of families
But we talk about real family values — keeping the family together, defending the family, designating someone in the family to learn the laws, to know your rights, and then educating someone else in the family to be the mobilizer, the organizer, to preserve the integrity of the family and to defend all members of the family against the voracious appetite of this administration — and the previous one — to bust up families and deport them.
TRIBUNO: What is the significance of the Driscoll Berry Boycott, led by the Mexican workers who are struggling in San Quintín against near slave-labor conditions?
NATIVO: San Quintín has provided us with an incredible opportunity to strengthen cross-border organizing and unify organizations across the border.
It makes it crystal clear that the major culprit in maintaining wages at an extremely low level in Baja is an American corporation, Driscoll’s, and that’s why they have called for the boycott. Through the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and other people, we have built that solidarity for the Driscoll’s Berry boycott.
TRIBUNO: What are your thoughts on the sanctuary movement, the current status and its potential for the future?
NATIVO: The sanctuary movement has its basis in canon law, the separation between religious property and civil (state) authority, which originated in Roman civil law.
The most recent application was in the 1980s, during the Salvadoran revolution. Many churches, mostly Protestant, but some Catholic churches, and even Los Angeles under Mayor Bradley, declared themselves sanctuaries.
Now it’s becoming popularized again under the Trump administration.
So here in California, there is legislation offered by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon called Senate Bill 54, the Values Act. Essentially what it proposes to do is to prohibit the use of any public money to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and deport individuals who don’t have status.
The important thing about this legislation is that it will set the legal basis whereby we can lodge political protests against any jurisdiction or police agency that collaborates with ICE.
That is a broad demand, that is a broad movement, that encompasses churches, political organiza-tions, legislatures and legislators, and that’s what you need to build a resistance movement.