LCLAA Convention Turns Into Pro-Dreamers, Anti-Trump March

WASHINGTON—Led by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and urged on by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., delegates and leaders of Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) converted the first half day of their two-day convention in D.C. into a pro-Dreamer anti-Donald Trump march.

The conclave, planned long before, coincidentally began on September 6, the day after Trump and his anti-Latino Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, threw 800,000 young undocumented people, most of them Hispanic-named, out of the country by cancelling the Obama administration’s 5-year-old DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

Among the marchers ‘chants were “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” alternately in English and Spanish and “No Trump, No KKK, No Racist USA!” along with “Ho, ho, hey, hey, immigrants are here to stay!”

Led by Trumka and federation Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, the approximately 200 delegates paraded from the AFL-CIO to a rally in front of the White House before descending on Sessions’ Justice Department. They paused at Trump’s D.C. hotel to denounce him there.

At the Justice Department, pro-immigration advocates who bused in from Chicago joined them, bringing a bit of street theater: A tall paper-mache statue of Sessions, a former Alabama senator, dressed in a Confederate general’s uniform complete with sword, marked with a plaque: “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions: A living monument to white supremacy.”

When they got to the Justice Department, the marchers pulled the statue down.

Sessions’ parents had named him for Confederate President Jefferson Davis and rebel Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, whose troops fired the first shots of the Civil War, on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

“The rallies have been very, very powerful and the protests have been very, very massive,” Trumka told the crowd in impromptu remarks. “We’ve been taking back our country for every last worker out there – taking it back from those who want to divide us and from those who want to keep us down.”

Trump, Trumka said, “wants to give freedom to a convicted felon, Joe Arpaio,” the former Maricopa County (Phoenix, Ariz.) sheriff facing jail for contempt of court. Arpaio defied judicial bans on racial profiling of Hispanics and massive mistreatment of detainees. After his mention of Trump’s pardon of Arpaio drew boos, Trumka drew the contrast: “Now he’s taking freedom from law-abiding Americans.”

Instead of punishing the Dreamers – people brought to the U.S. as children who have since become students, military service members, college graduates and workers contributing to their communities and the country – Trump should honor them, Trumka contended. But since he won’t, “We’ll stand with them every single day until they get citizenship,” Trumka vowed. “We won’t back down and we won’t back up!”

“Yesterday, the person in that house across the street declared war on Latino and immigrant families.  We are here to say Ya basta! Enough is enough! And to commit to organize for the rest of our lives,” declared LCLAA President Milton Rosado.

That means using every tactic in the union toolkit, he added, including voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives and boycotts, to win rights for the Dreamers. After returning to the AFL-CIO in the afternoon, delegates spent the rest of the day strategizing about how to, as the convention call put it, “Organize, mobilize and resist” Trump and white supremacy in general.

Not just unionists and the Dreamers – some of whom spoke in front of the White House on both September 5 and September 6 – condemned Trump. Other critics included business leaders and lawmakers from both parties. But whether Congress will do anything is unlikely.

There’s a dead-set anti-Latino anti-immigrant section of Capitol Hill’s ruling Republicans who blocked the Dream Act in 2010. It would have legalized the Dreamers. They also blocked comprehensive immigration reform before that. Sessions, as a senator, led that anti-immigrant, anti-Latino congressional hate.

“Any administration that pardons Joe Arpaio cannot come and talk to us about the rule of law,” said Nadia Dominguez of the Painters, who became a labor activist “even before I got my (naturalization) papers.” And, referring to Trump, she declared “a billionaire who profits from people’s exploited lives in China every day cannot talk to us about ‘good American jobs.’ That’s why we have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against this white supremacy agenda.”

“The sad thing is proud American soldiers woke up yesterday in Afghanistan and Iraq and didn’t know when they come back here if they’d be deported or not,” said Will Attig of the Union Veterans Council. Added Cesar Moreno of the Teachers: “We are unapologetic about our support for our undocumented students and families,” describing AFT’s moves to turn schools and hospitals into safe havens and to train the undocumented in how to combat federal raids.

Gutierrez urged the delegates, before the march began, to “draw a line in the sand” on the Dreamers issue and challenge lawmakers of both parties to cross it. And Gutierrez and the crowd both said Trump’s hatred expanded from the Dreamers to all Latinos. Referring to his own 14-year-old U.S.-born grandson, Gutierrez said: “Donald Trump wants to make him a criminal, a drug dealer and strip him of his rights.”

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AFL-CIO PRESIDENT RICHARD TRUMKA declares “We won’t back up and we won’t back down!” as he addresses LCLAA delegates and other demonstrators outside the White House after GOP President Trump’s decision to kill the DACA program. Photo courtesy the Metro DC Central Labor Council via PAI Photo Service.

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TEFERE GEBRE (left), AFL-CIO Executive Vice President leads marchers down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Justice Department to show solidarity with the Dreamers whom GOP President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions plan to eject from the U.S. Photo courtesy the Metro DC Central Labor Council via PAI Photo Service.

Source: PAI