DACA students, educators speak out at ICE building, state Capitol

Friday, Cesar Chavez Day, the first day of the CFT Convention, Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation promised the delegates that he will make sure other unions — the plumbers, carpenters, and building trades — back up the CFT in their fight against charter schools and privatization. Then he got them fired up for the march in support of immigrant rights.

“Are you ready to raise a little hell? Are you ready to fight for immigrant justice?” Pulaski asked the delegates before they filed out to march past Sacramento’s Immigration Customs Enforcement office on the way to the steps of the state Capitol building.

At a rally in front of the ICE office, Kent Wong from the UCLA Labor Center addressed the hundreds of marchers, telling them he couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day. In his 20 years of teaching, many of his best students have been undocumented, Wong said. One of those students, Hugo Romero, also spoke. 

“My mother was detained in a private detention center and she said it was a living hell,” he said. “I’ve seen the impact of privatization, and I will fight like hell to prevent privatization of schools.”

One of the marchers, Robert Chacanaca, president of the Santa Cruz Council of Classified Employees, said we need to recognize that all human beings have a right to be on the planet. 

“I’m a Native American,” he said. “I’m always confused when one group of immigrants is against another group of immigrants.”

On the Capitol steps, Los Rios College Federation President Dean Murakami recited a list of the lies Trump has told, and Gemma Abels, president of Morgan Hill Federation, reported numbers showing how immigrants make a difference in the United States. Early Childhood Federation President Gloria Garcia spoke of the fear educators are seeing in their students. 

“One boy said to his teacher, ‘Do you know who Mr. Trump is?’ The teacher said yes. He said, ‘Do you know Mr. Trump wants to send my parents back, and I’ll never see them again?’” Garcia recounted. “Thank you for standing up here today. We have to be together and defend our students. They’re living in fear.”

See photos from the March for Immigrant Rights on Facebook.

Member voices on the street

“All human beings are legal. I came to this country when I was in my 30s. You don’t change the country of your birth lightly. A lot of people helped me. I have to help others — I feel it in my bones.” — Pinky Uppal, special education teacher, ABC Federation of Teachers

“We need to support all our children. We have students from South America and Yemen. They’re coming to school hysterical. One little boy from Syria was hysterical for two hours.” — Mary Lavalais, student advisor, United Educators of San Francisco

“The area where I teach has a large number of farmworkers. I’ve seen the fear and how it’s hard to concentrate on schoolwork. Some students have left school. All the teachers see the effects. I’m just standing up for the students.” — Kent Johnson, English teacher, North Monterey County Federation of Teachers