Activist Dolores Huerta on Immigration Reform, the Dream Act and Why Immigrants Come to the US

You’re a big supporter of Zack de la Rocha’s SoundStrike campaign. What’s he doing right?

He’s raising money for legal organizations that are fighting the Arizona law like MALDEF and ACLU, but he’s also helping out the junior community organizations. He’s covering the field and he’s very passionate about what he’s doing. He really believes in it. He’s not just lending music; he’s also organizing. Music is great because it’s not only a way of communicating what’s going on, but it’s also a way of engaging, particularly the young people, to stop that stupid law.

How do you see immigration reform playing out?

The Obama administration can’t even propose a bill right now because they don’t have the votes to get it passed. I want to criticize people like Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) who keep blaming the president for not having an immigration law, when the president doesn’t make the laws; it’s Congress. We need to counter the Tea Party and all those Republicans with our own campaign of education and information and advocacy to get more people to come to our side.

How did we get to this point?

We have not done our work. We keep blaming the president but we need to blame ourselves. We’ve done a lot of great marches and we’ve gotten the word out but we have to educate our communities, especially those people that don’t know why we are asking for legalization, remind them that everyone who came to this country were immigrants at one time or another—legalization has always been the policy of the United States— so we’re not asking for anything different.

Then we have to educate people about what the contributions are of the undocumented population: they’re the ones picking our food every day, preparing it and putting it on our tables; the ones taking care of our children, our elderly and our disabled people; cleaning our buildings.  They’re paying taxes (federal, state, and local), putting billions into our social security system and they’ll never get to claim that money because they have fake [other people’s] numbers.

People never ask the question: Why do people come here? They do so because they don’t have opportunities in their countries. The next question is, Why don’t they have opportunities there? Because of our foreign trade policies like NAFTA. We slap Mexico with our subsidized corn and we put 8 million local farmers out of work. And then we have corporations like Walmart that put out all the mom and pop businesses out of work; we have maquiladora factories; we take of all their natural resources, and all the profits come to the United States. Once you explain that to people, they seem to understand.

Do you think there is a chance at getting the Dream Act passed this year?

I think we have a really good chance; but again, we have to do our work. The young kids organizing around the country are doing a fantastic job at exactly what I’m talking about.