As an undocumented elementary school student in Santa Barbara County, Erik Ramirez was determined to excel in his studies, attend college, and “show the world that I deserved to be here.”
Ramirez, however, was able to chase his dream of becoming an educator only after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program took effect many years later.
With reassurances that came with DACA and financial support from the California Dream Act, Ramirez enrolled at Sacramento State in 2015 after deferring college for 10 years. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Sac State, and found a professional home on campus in Student Affairs.
Ramirez is completing his doctoral degree and works as Sac State’s director of Equity and Affinity Centers, which include the Dreamer Resource Center for undocumented students.
Bishop William Barber, a campaign co-chair, said the United States' current poverty level "is actually morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent, politically insensitive, and economically insane."
Activists with the Poor People's Campaign rally in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2021. , Poor People's Campaign/Twitter
The Poor People's Campaign plans to hold a "generationally transformative and disruptive gathering of poor and low-wealth people, state leaders, faith communities, moral allies, unions, and partnering organizations" in the U.S. capital on Saturday, June 18.
The Mass Poor People's and Low-Wage Workers' Assembly and Moral March on Washington is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am local time. The campaign has put together an online FAQ page for participants.
Contrasting the planned event with a right-wing mob's attack on the U.S. Capitol last year, Bishop William Barber, the campaign's co-chair, said on Democracy Now!Friday that poor people and allies from across the country "are coming nonviolently to Washington, D.C."
Their key messages for those in power, Barber said, include: "We won't be silent or unseen anymore."
"The time has come for us to have a Third Reconstruction," Barber continued. "We had one in the 1800s, one in the 1960s. We need one now, that's about policy, reconstructing a moral framework, political framework in this country, because to have this level of poverty, that's un-talked-about too often and unseen and unheard, is actually morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent, politically insensitive, and economically insane."
"So people are coming," he said, "but poor people are coming to say not only do we need a moral reset—and low-wage workers are saying it—we represent 32% of the electorate now, poor people do, and 45% of the electorate in battleground states. And it's time for that power to be organized, mobilized, and felt in every election throughout this country."
Discussing the June 18 gathering and related eventspreceding it, Barber emphasized earlier this year that the D.C. assembly "is not just a day of action," but a "declaration of an ongoing, committed, nonviolent, truth-telling, multiracial, interfaith moral movement."
"We are not in this for a moment, but for a movement," he said. "June 18, and everything that leads up to it and after it, will be for the fundamental shifting of the narrative and changing this sickness that we're seeing in our nation."
Poor People's Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, who also appeared on Democracy Now! Friday, highlighted how the fight "to implement a single-payer universal healthcare system" and the "demand for living-wage jobs, for adequate housing, for immigration reform, for protecting this democracy, they're all connected."
An organizing manual for Saturday's event also notes the connections and declares that "we must do more to make America live up to her possibilities." Specifically, the document calls for doing more:
to fully address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of healthcare, militarism and the false narrative of Christian nationalism;
to change the narrative and build the power of those most impacted by these injustices; and
to realize a Third Reconstruction agenda that can build this country from the bottom up and realize the nation we have yet to be.
Those were also the focal topics at a Wednesday briefing with members of Congress, which featured remarks from Barber and Theoharis as well as several low-income Americans who called on Congress to actually prioritize people like them in policy decisions.
"Every dollar that we spend destroying communities overseas is a dollar not spent on universal healthcare, affordable housing, or meaningful social services and public education," said Kyle Bibby, a military veteran from New Jersey. "Every youth sent overseas for war is a life at risk for a sacrifice that we cannot justify. Every veteran returning who is saddled with trauma is a high toll to pay for wars that never had a clear goal—and many are returning to underfunded and forgotten communities.”
Morgan Leavy, a barista at Texas' first unionized Starbucks, said that "if a bunch of mostly young adults with little-to-no organizing experience can put enough pressure on a multibillion-dollar company to raise the minimum wage in less than a year, we absolutely expect our government to be able to do so too."
As Common Dreamsreported earlier this month, Leavy is the kind of person the campaign co-chairs urged President Joe Biden to meet with in D.C.
Lamenting that "corporations are treated like people and people are treated like things," Barber asked, "Why don't poor people get meetings in the Oval Office instead of corporations?"
"It is time for the president to act on his pre-election promise to address poverty," he said, noting that "labor unions are joining our call to the president to use his power to lift the voices of impacted people and to act now."
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How did immigration from Latin America compare to that from Europe in the mid-1800s and mid-1900s? What factors caused those migrations and what was our historical relationship with the countries that sent them? Join Dr. Manuel Barajas, Interim Director of the Sac State Center for Race, Immigration and Social Justice (CRISJ), on Friday, June 17 at 10:30 a.m. in Del NorteHall, Room 1004 for Understanding Race, Immigration and Borders in the U.S. Dr. Barajas will explain how nationality, race, class and gender biases affect deportations as well as the ability of certain immigrants to incorporate into U.S. society more freely than others. It’s a fascinating and timely topic. Be sure to register on Eventbrite here.
Alex Padilla joins California farmworkers for a day, one of just two senators to accept invitation
“Today I experienced just a small taste of the demanding work that farm workers do every day to keep millions of families in America fed,” said Senator Padilla. “I was here for just one day, but the people I worked alongside are here every day toiling, often under the hot sun, to make sure there’s food in our stores and on our tables. Farm workers are essential to the success of our country. That’s why I’m fighting to fix our immigration system and to provide immigrant farm workers the pathway to citizenship they have earned.”
“I am glad Senator Padilla took the opportunity to come and work alongside incredibly skilled farm workers like those he met today,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “Farm workers have done the skilled and often grueling work to keep our food supply stable crisis after crisis. The Senate needs to work just as hard for them. I hope more members of Congress accept our invitation to join us in the fields and see for themselves just how much skill this difficult work requires.” Read more here