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Union founder tells students to debate, protest immigration laws

United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta
United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Olivia Kenney.

United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta challenged the GW community to take part in the national debate on immigration and the challenges facing the Hispanic population during her speech to the Jack Morton Auditorium Tuesday.

Huerta spoke to a packed audience during the kickoff event for University’s 2009 Latino Heritage Celebration, sponsored by Multicultural Student Services Center and Organization of Latino American Students.

As a leader in the 1960’s and 1970’s Chicano civil rights movement, Huerta told students to fight for the unrepresented. She currently lobbies for the protection of immigrants’ interests in Congress.

“We have power.  Poor people have power. You don’t need a lot of money; don’t need a lot of assets.  The power that we have is in our person,” she said.

While the debate over immigration has intensified in the last year because of health care and border issues, Huerta said immigration is nothing new.

“When we talk about legalization for our undocumented [workers], we’re not talking about something new,” Huerta explained.  “Unless you’re Native American, your people came from somewhere… Our country has always been one of immigrants.”

Huerta said that immigration is as much a foreign policy as it is a domestic policy.  Classifying the United States’ relationship with Latin America as one of “economic colonization,” she said that free trade agreements have exaggerated the inequality within the western hemisphere.

“We are the only country in the world that does not own its natural resources,” Ms. Huerta said.  Huerta’s critical imitation of U.S. foreign policy, in which she said, if countries do not cooperate with the U.S., “they become our enemies, right?,” brought laughter to the crowd.

She encouraged students to assert their power as citizens in the immigration debate – herself having been arrested multiple times.

“Get arrested, that’s okay,” she advised, partially in jest.  “To get arrested for social justice… that’s really great.”

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