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Immigrant groups rally for ‘just’ reform outside Thompson’s office

Immigrant and Indigenous groups demanded what they called “just immigration reform” from Rep. Mike Thompson on Thursday at a rally with speakers who addressed a crowd of about 50 members and allies.

The rally, sponsored by the umbrella group Immigrant and Indigenous Women of Sonoma County, was given in both Spanish and English outside the Sonoma County building in Santa Rosa where Thompson, D-St. Helena, has an office. It was held to grab the attention of Thompson and all of Congress, organizers said.

Rally participants said Congress promised to seek reforms beyond the norm in a legislative package within the first 100 days of the new administration. That day passed nearly a month ago.

The rally culminated in a caravan of vehicles with brightly colored signs and sayings painted on their windows driving around the parking lot honking loudly.

“We want our representatives to support papers for all without the bad policies. ... We don’t want any more detention centers, and no more criminalization!” Soccoro Diaz of ALMAS, whose Spanish-language name translates to Alliance of Active Women in Solidarity, told the crowd.

Diaz spoke in Spanish and her words were translated by Renee Saucedo, program director for ALMAS at the Graton Day Labor Center.

Spanish-speaking immigrants one-by-one addressed the perils of living and working in the United States.

“We gather to solicit the support of Congressman Mike Thompson ... so we can receive all the benefits and opportunities that others get. We no longer want to live in fear,” said Marcia Avila, who said she works caring for elders.

Before the meeting Saucedo acknowledged the realities of Democrats negotiating reforms with Republicans, who she said traditionally back guest worker programs and further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, which they oppose. One of the current proposals includes the expansion of E-verify, a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the legal status of employees, and therefore their eligibility to work, she said, which they also oppose.

“The problem is that the Democrats are not pushing back hard enough against these policies,” Saucedo said. “We want to make it clear to Rep. Thompson that we don’t want him to support just any immigration reform. Democrats have yet to express disdain over guest worker programs which are inherently exploitative or the intense level of criminalization against families who are just trying to work and support their families.”

Thompson, who was working in Washington, D.C., sent aide Katarina Giudice, who read a letter responding to a letter from Immigrant & Indigenous Women of Sonoma County telling him of the coming rally and caravan. The letter spelled out specific reforms they want and asked him several questions.

In his letter, Thompson wrote of his support for all immigrants, including local immigrants.

“We are a nation of immigrants and we have always been stronger because of them,” he said. Thompson, who has proposed immigration reform in the past, said he had “continued to defend the rights of immigrants across our nation” and had spoken out against the immigration policies of the Trump administration.

He pointed out that any proposed immigration reform legislation “will face a fierce battle in Congress.”

Saucedo said at the rally that she didn’t feel satisfied with the letter.

“We will continue to rally until our demands are met,” she told the crowd as they left to jump in their cars for the caravan.

The letter “simply contained generalities and didn’t answer any of our questions,” she said later. “It’s not good enough anymore. These legislators have to have the courage to push for immigration reform policies. Anything short is just hot air.”

Other groups represented at the rally included the Raizes Collective, North Bay Jobs With Justice, the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County and the North Bay Organizing Project.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

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