Friday, May 18, 2007

D.E.P. Jose Fernando Pedraza

Anti-immigrant sentiment is so deeply ugly, and the incident reported in the following press release makes me feel such shame for this country.

CONTACTS:Suzanne Foster: 310-486-8499Jose Calderon: 909-952-1640Veronica Federovsky: 818-515-0782.
Day Laborer Leader Killed During a Minutemen Protest in Rancho Cucamonga
WHAT: Press ConferenceWHERE: Corner of Arrow Highway and Grove Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CADATE: Monday, May 7, 2007TIME: 11 a.m.
On Saturday, May 5, 2007, José Fernando Pedraza, a day laborer, was struck and killed by a vehicle on the corner of Arrow Highway and Grove Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga, California. At around 12:30 p.m., two vehicles collided in the intersection, causing one to veer into the day laborer corner. Several workers were hit; two sustained minor injuries. José Fernando Pedraza was airlifted to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries. Though day laborers are typically not looking for work at that time of day, Pedraza and workers were present yesterday because the Minutemen and members of Save Our State, anti-immigrant, vigilante groups, were staging a protest against them.
José Fernando Pedraza, 57, leaves behind many friends and loved ones. He was the father of five children and the grandfather of seven. In the last five years, José Fernando was a leader at the day laborer corner, mentoring young day laborers. He fought tirelessly for the creation of a day laborer center. He attended several meetings of the Rancho Cucamonga city council to advocate for a day labor center and joined in numerous marches in the region to support the legalization of immigrant workers. The day laborers have lost a brother, a friend and a leader.
We are all deeply saddened over this tragedy. Day laborers and community members will come together on Monday to express their outrage and frustration that they continue to be targeted by groups such as the Minutemen and Save Our State. As one of Fernando’s fellow day laborers and friends, Carlos Mendez, stated, ” This would never have happened if we did not have to be there to respond to the Minutemen.” He continued, “This would never have happened if the City had provided us with a safe space to stand and look for work. It should not take a death to push the City to provide us with a day laborer center.”
The accident in Rancho Cucamonga is an example of the precarious reality for day laborers across the country. Vigilante groups, whose members shout insults at workers and use intimidation tactics to discourage employers from hiring them, routinely target day laborer corners and centers. Of high concern to the workers and their organizations in Rancho Cucamonga is the fact that the frequent protests by the vigilante groups cause a chaotic environment, potentially distracting drivers and leading to accidents such as Saturday’s deadly incident.
The strongly anti-immigrant nature of Save Our State and the Minutemen protests create aclimate of violence and hostility that encourage hate crimes against day laborers and migrants in general. Last week, a newly opened day laborer center in Gaithersburg MD, was targeted by arsonists and in the fall of 2006, day laborers at a center in Laguna Beach, California were injured when two individuals drove a car through the center’s property attempting to run down workers. Day laborers and their organizations also fear an increase in violence in the aftermath of the repressive tactics that the Los Angeles Police Department used during the May Day march and rally at McArthur Park. Groups also fear an escalation of violence, hate crimes and hate incidents as federal legislators engage in the immigration debate in Washington DC in mid-May.
Day laborers and their advocates call for an end to the hostilities against day laborers in Rancho Cucamonga and throughout the country. We demand that Minutemen and Save Our State members end their demonstrations against innocent workers whose only crime is to look for an honest day of work. If at all, day laborers are the victims of injustice, they don’t cause any harm to anyone in the community. Day laborers and their organizations demand a detailed investigation of the incident. We also demand that the City of Rancho Cucamonga establishes a day laborer center for workers and employers to meet and carry out their negotiations in peace and harmony with the community.
To the vigilante groups, day laborers and their organizations send a message of peace and reconciliation. We don’t hate you but we don’t fear you either. End hatred and hostilities now.
As part of the healing process, day laborers, their organizations and allies will join together in an ecumenical service on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 11 am to mourn José Fernando Pedraza’s tragic, untimely and unnecessary death. Press is welcome at this service.
A Bank Account is being established for donations for the family of José Pedraza. The account number will be announced tomorrow during the press conference.
José Pedraza Vive!

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