Students, activists discuss day laborers’ struggle

Pitzer College's first annual Day Laborer Film Festival raised awareness about day laborers' rights and provoked a candid discussion among Claremont Colleges students, community members, and community activists.

The event, hosted by the Community Engagement Center at Pitzer, brought to campus the Colectivo Tonantzin of Santa Ana. The organization, which is dedicated to fighting for day laborers' rights, premiered their film Jornaleros en la Lucha (“Day Laborers in the Struggle”) and led a question and answer session alongside members of the Pomona Day Labor Center.

The event also featured Collective member and videographer Naui Huitzilopochtli, who presented a variety of YouTube films that drew attention to the effects of racism, xenophobia, and hatred that day laborers face on a daily basis.

The Collective was invited to participate to report on the work they have done in Costa Mesa, Lake Forest, and the City of Orange—cities with some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies in the entire country. According to Collective member Gema Salas, the organization strives for justice, dignity, and equality, opposing systems of oppression, and raising awareness by working with day laborers.

According to Danielle Holmes PZ '13, the Community Engagement Center's program and volunteer coordinator who helped put the festival together, the purpose of the event was to bring publicity to the many issues that immigrants face.

“Our goal is to help day laborers get what they came here for: a job, a life, and not getting separated from their families,” she said.

Holmes feels that this issue does not get the publicity it deserves and that it is important to call attention to it, especially in light of rising anti-immigrant sentiments across the country.

“Racism is expanding, and the goal of the Collective is to help the most vulnerable people, and in this case that would be the day laborers who are on the streets,” Salas said. “It is a continuous struggle, and if we don’t keep active, nobody is going to do anything.”

Michael Gray PZ ’13, who attended the event, said although he had some background knowledge concerning immigration issues, he was stunned by the ordinances that were being passed in cities like Costa Mesa and the extent to which laws were being broken.

“I saw a border control bust into someone’s house [in the film],” he said. “I got pretty angry because he had no right to do it, and I know this wasn’t a one-time thing.”

Gray said he felt the event was successful in raising awareness and that it helped clarify some of the issues for him.

“Unless you can see it or hear about it first-hand, you don’t know what’s really going on,” Gray said. “You can talk about it with professors in your classes all you want, but it’s disconnected.”

The event aimed to provide an opportunity for activists from different cities to network and learn about strategies that have been applied in other areas, which Holmes believes was accomplished during the discussion. She hopes to make the film festival an annual event in order to continue the discussion and place more emphasis on long-term goals.

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