National Labor Leaders to Speak at Immigration Reform Summit March 16

Maria Elena Durazo and Eliseo Medina headline student-organized event at UC Riverside that will draw scholars, policymakers and organizers from across the country

Flag and logo for conference

National labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo and Eliseo Medina will speak at the immigration policy reform summit at UC Riverside on March 16.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — National labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo and Eliseo Medina will deliver the keynote addresses at an all-day summit on immigration reform on Saturday, March 16, at the University of California, Riverside.

Scholars, policymakers and community organizers from across the country will convene for the National Leadership Summit for Immigration Reform organized by UCR AIR — the student-led Alliance for Immigration Reform — and Armando Navarro, UCR professor of ethnic studies. Summit participants will hear from scholars who study immigration policy, legislators who create policy, and representatives of labor, human rights and immigrant groups who work with immigrant communities.

The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Highlander Union Building Room 302. Registration may be made by emailing or by calling UCR Chicano Student Programs, (951) 827-3821. The cost is $10 for university students with student ID or $15 for general admission; admission is free for high school students. Parking permits are available for purchase at the kiosk near the campus entrance on West Campus Drive.

Maria Elena Durazo, regarded as one of the most powerful union organizers in the country, is the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. The daughter of migrant farm workers, she began her career in union organizing with the International Ladies Garment  Workers Union (later known as UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and later HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union), where she served as president of Local 11, was the first Latina elected to the Executive Board of HERE International, and became the executive vice president of UNITE-HERE International when the two unions merged. She was vice chair of the Democratic National Convention Committee and National Co-Chair of the Barrack Obama Presidential Campaign in 2008.

Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has been described as one of the most successful labor organizers in the country. His career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, Calif. Working alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, Medina honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist, eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers’ national vice president. He is the first Mexican-American elected to a top leadership position in the 2.1 million-member SEIU, which is the largest union in California and the fastest-growing on the West Coast.

“Hundreds of individuals from divergent sectors, organizations and communities from throughout the country who are committed to achieving humane comprehensive immigration reform will converge on March 16,” Navarro said. “Not since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which legalized some 3 million undocumented persons, has the country been at a juncture to achieve immigration reform.”

Summit attendees will learn about the most current policy proposals advanced by Congress and the White House and, after discussion, will try to reach consensus on legislation to accomplish immigration reform and develop a strategic plan of action to advocate for whatever position the group adopts.

Students enrolled in Navarro’s “Chicano Contemporary Issues” course decided to organize the summit as a “practicum in political change,” said Navarro, adding that the event appears to be the only one in the country to invite immigration reform leaders with varying perspectives to debate the issue.

UC Riverside is a logical choice to host such an event because the university is one of the most diverse in the nation, Joseph Cobbs, co-chair of UCR AIR, said at a Feb. 22 press conference announcing the summit. Student organizers acknowledge the challenges of reforming immigration policy, he said, but believe that “just because there is no action on Capitol Hill doesn’t mean that we can’t act” in a way that informs the debate.

Policymakers who will participate in the summit are: Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Assemblyman Manuel Perez, D-Coachella; Felipe Aguirre, mayor of the city of Maywood, Calif.; Eduardo Garcia, mayor of the city of Coachella, Calif.; Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. (prerecorded message); Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos (prerecorded message); former Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto; Tom Saenz, executive director of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund); and Arnold Torres, political consultant on immigration reform.

Participating scholars are: Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of history, Pomona College; Rudy Acuña, professor of history emeritus, California State University, Northridge; Juan Gomez-Quiñonez, professor of history, UCLA; Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate professor of political science, UCR; Jesse Diaz, professor of sociology, La Sierra University; and Ellen Reese, professor of sociology, UCR.

Speaking during the lunch hour will be Gil Cedillo, former California state senator and assemblyman and a candidate for election to the Los Angeles City Council; Lucero Chavez, an ACLU staff attorney; and Sen. Ana Gabriela Guevara of Mexico’s Labor Party and the Migratory Affairs Commission.

Presenting responses to legislation proposed by Congress and President Barack Obama will be: Maria Jimenez, member of the Immigration Law Enforcement Monitory Project, Texas; Isabel Garcia, an attorney with the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Arizona; Nita Gonzales, director of Escuela Tlteloco, Colorado; Herman Baca, co-founder of the Committee on Chicano Rights, California; Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, Texas; a representative of Black Alliance for Immigration Reform, California; Carlos Montes, director of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, California; Rachel LaZar, executive director of El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, New Mexico; Juan Carlos Loera, a representative of Mexicana/os in the Exterior, MORENA, Mexico; and Jose Jaques Mediana, Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano, Mexico.

Participating in the strategy planning session will be: Maria Jimenez; Isabel Garcia; Nita Gonzales; Luz Gallegos, Justice for Immigrants Coalition-Inland Empire; Angelica Salas of CHIRLA, California; Carlos Arango, Illinois; a representative from Black Alliance for Immigration Reform; Francisco Bravo, Dreamers-Dream Team of Orange County; Walter Ulloa, chairman and chief executive officer of Entravision Communications Corp.; Fernando Garcia, Texas; Mario Lazcano, director of Comité Latino, California; Rachel LaZar; Juan Carlos Loera; Javier Rodriguez, political strategist and independent journalist; and Jose Jaques Mediana.

Summit sponsors are: Entravision Commuication Corp., UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, UCR Asian Student Programs, UCR Chicano Student Programs, UCR Department of Ethnic Studies, UCR LGBT Program, UCR YOK Center for Korean American Studies, the law firm of Carlos Juarez, Oro Group, and the UCR Immigration Research Group.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Armando Navarro
Tel: (951) 333-6819

Archived under: Politics/Society, , , , , , ,

Top of Page