By Karen Berner
ACE Communications Team Leader
Cristobal Cavazos, of Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, discussed several issues that affect immigrants in DuPage County with ACE-Naperville members on July 16.
Globalization drives people to migrate to the United States. Some are even recruited from Mexico for low-wage jobs like construction, while, at the same time, U.S. immigration policy makes labor by those undocumented workers a crime. “This feeds right into the private prison corporations,” he said.
DuPage County’s service sector is mainly made up of Latino workers who are paid minimum wage. Cavazos’ group, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, is active in the Fight for 15 campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. “In DuPage, you need to make $75,000 per year to be above the poverty line,” he said. “Who can do that at $8.25 an hour?”
There have been many cases of wage theft across the country, which include stealing tips, not paying overtime, or minimum wage violations, totaling upwards of $250 million that was taken away from workers and given to the 1%. And the workers certainly can’t fight back. Any sign of unionization, Cavazos said, the business owners call Immigration to deport their workers.
‘The color of racism is green.’
Citing the book, Illegal People, by David Bacon, Cavazos said wealthy oligarchs are trying to divide and conquer the American people to grab more power, pitting workers against business owners.
“We must get away from old metaphors. America is not a melting pot in which we all have to assimilate,” Cavazos said. “But, think of it more as fermenting, bringing lots of elements together to make a beautiful wine.”
Cavazos spoke of the importance of every city becoming a sanctuary city, or at least designated as a welcoming city. He cited Cincinnati, Ohio, as an example of a government that used its welcoming city status to further the workers’ movement and raise issues like wage theft.
A member of the immigration movement for more than twenty years, Cavazos admitted to getting tired sometimes, but then he’ll be at a meeting or at a rally and become re-energized. How does he do it?
“Pessimism in the mind,” he told ACE members. “And hope in the heart.”
For more information on Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, click here.
For David Bacon’s book, Illegal People, click here.
To watch “Immigrants for Sale,” which examines the horrors of the private prison system, click here .
ACE Communications Team Leader Karen Berner has been a professional writer/editor for more than 30 years. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women’s Fiction Writers, Naperville magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women’s fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association.