Statement in Support of CA SB 54 & Sen.’s Feinstein/Harris “Agricultural Worker Program Act”
Oral presentation by Dr. Gonzalo Santos, CSUB, to the Kern County Board of Supervisors, at the board meeting of May 9, 2017
Good morning. My name is Gonzalo Santos, I teach at Cal State Bakersfield. I brought you today a package of sixteen graphs, accompanied by nine fact-based arguments, that I submit to you are compelling reasons for why you should declare your support for SB 54, the California Values Act sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León, and while you are at it, pronounce yourselves in favor of the US Senate Agricultural Worker Program Act, sponsored by our two Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
I am respectfully asking you to reject – or at least table, until you hold open hearings on these two bills – your staff’s proposed resolution in opposition to SB54. It is divorced from the empirical realities of your county and state, let alone the wishes of the majority of your constituents, and I’m referring to the Latino, Asian, and African American who make the majority of Kern county, which you have historically ignored, repeatedly.
I will not go through those charts and arguments in the short time I have and in the absence of hearings – you have put the cart before the horse, you are making policy decisions here without proper hearings –, but as a sociologist that teaches the topics of immigration and ethnic relations, it is my opinion that you are – like your sheriff – going against the tremendous progress we have achieved in the past 20 years in California, if not the nation, on addressing the topic of inclusion and integration of our resident immigrant communities. SB 54 takes it one step further to extend protection to these communities, in the face of the harsh enforcement of the broken federal immigration laws which are being taken up again, by the new administration – not that the past one didn’t do it, it also did that.
Some say, if you do not want such laws, work to change them. Well, the problem is, we’ve been at it for two decades, trying to change them. And the same people who say this thing, of go and change the law, tend to be the same people who obstruct changing the law for the better. And so, it’s time to question their motivation, including those in this board. Now, I teach the history of this, and I know that today the motivation is anti-Latino xenophobia, and also anti-Muslim and all the typical things we see in history, expressed again and again, when we debate immigration. The history of ugly restrictionism, virulent nativism, exclusion policies, and deportation campaigns is the history of ethnic antagonism towards the new Americans that have come to our shores. Today is no different that when we shut the door to East & Southern Europeans in 1924, or the Chinese in the 1880s.
We are in for a rough ride with the new administration, but California is poised to defend its immigrant populations – a third of our work force, and more so in our county – with laws like SB 54 and the Agricultural Worker Program Act.
You are not in Texas, which is marching backwards. You are in California, which has been moving forward. It’s time you catch up with the
rest of the state and join the majority of your hard-working constituents, that happen not to be white; and perhaps listen to us, when we say: we put food on your table, and we demand respect. And we demand you to represent us, not just the white community, which, we must admit, is in the throngs of Trumpism, OK? You don’t have to join that wave, it’s time for you to stand with us, and change the page in Kern County. We can be better than this.
So, I will finish by saying, please reject the politics of xenophobia, which is what drives this whole thing, and join the rest of us in California, which are moving forward, whether you like it or not.