Patterned after the Black Freedom Rides of the 60’s, and done with the enthusiastic cooperation of those original Freedom Riders, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will send buses from ten major cities to DC for a rally on Oct 1 and to meet members of Congress. Then it’s on a rally in NJ, then the culmination rally in NYC where they expect 300,000 people!
This is more than just rallies though. The buses will stop at cities along the way where they will meet with local activists, make the TV news, and otherwise shake things up. One of the main purposes of the Freedom Ride is to build nationwide links between organizations and people working for immigrant rights.
The L.A. and Seattle buses will deliberately skirt the 100 mile interior perimeter around the nation where INS often has roadblocks. Some of those onboard will be undocumented immigrants. There will be two legal observers per bus. The plan is to not let any one person be arrested. If they must arrest, then they will have to arrest the entire bus. In passage through dangerous areas where reactionaries might harass them, they will be escorted by Teamsters driving trucks.
There are one million farm workers in California. 800,000 are undocumented. As for Los Angeles, well, most garment manufacturing sites in L.A. are classified as sweatshops by the federal government, with the average “wage” being about $3 an hour. Restaurants are similarly staffed. As for that guy who wipes your car dry after a car wash, chances are he receives no pay. He exists solely on the tips. As a practical matter, if all the undocumented immigrants in California went home tomorrow, the state would stop functioning.
The story is the same throughout the country. Maybe it’s meatpacking plants in Michigan, not garment manufacturing. But the exploitation is the same. The immigrants get bashed and arrested, yet those who employ them never seem to. Why is this? Aren’t they breaking the law too?
These Freedom Riders want legalization and a path to citizenship plus protection of workers rights on the job without regard to legal status. Which is not a lot to be asking for.
Their primary purpose is to put Immigrant Rights front and center as a national issue. I suspect they will. And interestingly, this will occur before the California recall election, where immigration is becoming a major issue.
PS Check their website! It’s got bus routes and maps, contacts for every city they are stopping in, historical information, a mammoth (and mainstream) list of endorsements, and much more. An extraordinary job of organizing!