I need your help in preventing an injustice that is about to occur.
I am writing to you from Minneapolis where I am shooting a segment for "The Awful Truth" which begins next month on Bravo. This Tuesday, April 25, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will hold a hearing here as part of their attempt to deport eight Mexican workers. Their crime? They tried to organize a union where they worked, at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Minneapolis. The employees voted - and the union won. Shortly after their victory, Holiday Inn called the INS and turned them in.
The INS agents raided the Holiday Inn, and arrested and handcuffed these 6 women and 2 men. They then took them to a detention center far outside of Minneapolis and were not allowed to call a lawyer for a week.
When they were finally released (still wearing their Holiday Inn maid's uniforms) they got a lawyer and filed a number of complaints against Holiday Inn of Minneapolis with the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Both federal agencies ruled in favor of the Mexican illegal aliens. The law prohibits retaliating against any employee who attempts to organize a union or discriminating against anyone because of their ethnic background. It was the first time that the EEOC had ruled in favor of undocumented workers. Yet, even though Holiday Inn broke the law and was ordered to pay fines and restitution, the INS continues their efforts to ship the housekeepers back to Mexico.
These eight individuals - Rosa Albino, Evertina Albino, Reyna Albino, Estella Albino, Bulfrano Albino, Norma Del Toro, Bruna Alvarez, and Amado Flores -- are truly the working poor. They are the people who clean up after us. They break their backs for minimum wage -- cleaning bathrooms, changing sheets, and dealing with the mess people leave behind.
It is the kind of work none of us want to do. And because the boomers decided to have less children, there are not enough young people around to take the low-paying jobs, so many businesses have decided to look the other way and hire Mexicans and others to do the shift work. Companies across America love illegal aliens - until they get uppity and ask for a few more cents. Then a call is placed and the ax of the INS comes down swiftly.
These eight Mexican citizens have been in the United States from four to ten years. Some have had children born here. The INS cynically says the kids can stay - they're considered American citizens - but the parents have to go. The INS has to be stopped.
I have met these eight good people. They are the kind of people you hope to live next to - decent, honest, hard-working, selfless. They seek no favors, they pay their taxes, and they've been in no trouble with the law.
Yes, they came here illegally. I am not condoning this, but I ask you to please consider that none of us would be here today if it wasn't for the fact that our grandparents, great-grandparents, or some family ancestor came to America as an immigrant. Except for Native Americans and African-Americans, every single one of us is here today because of a relative who got to America by "hook or crook." How can any of us justify slamming the door behind us - "Okay, we're in! Everybody else, stay away!"
In shooting this story I have traveled to Atlanta to meet with a vice-president of Holiday Inn. It turns out that Holiday Inn is a foreigner, too. It is owned by the British - Bass Ale, to be specific. I asked the British v.p. who the hell did he think he and his other British executives were -- coming to our country, making millions, and trying to deport eight other immigrants who had also come here (to make five bucks an hour)?
Then I went to Washington, D.C. to meet with a top official at the INS. No, I said, I am not here to talk about young Elian. I want you to let these eight Mexican workers stay in the U.S. I told him the INS had violated the law by responding to a call from an employer who was trying to use the INS to retaliate against employees trying to organize a union. The man looked as if he wished I had asked him about Elian Gonzales. He said he wouldn't comment except to say that the hearing on the 25th will determine whether the eight stay or go, that the INS does consider certain "contributions to society" that illegal aliens make in determining whether they get to stay, and that the INS does listen to the comments of other citizens.
So that, my friends, is what we have to do - today. These eight people have made a significant contribution to us. They have risked everything by standing up for what they thought was right and trying to improve the working conditions and economic status of the AMERICANS who were their co-workers. In other words, they did what WE should be doing. When it comes to this -- that it takes a group of poor Mexican immigrants to show us how to do the virtually impossible by organizing a union for minimum wage workers - well, I feel embarrassed, ashamed, and damned determined to see that they get to stay. They deserve our thanks, not deportation. Our country is a better place because they are here. Please e-mail INS chief Doris Meissner and her boss, Attorney General Janet Reno at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them you believe these eight workers should be allowed to stay. You can all call Doris Meissner at 202-514-1900 or fax her at 202-307-9911 (Reno can be called at 202-616-2777; fax 202-514-5331).
Thank you for doing this. I know many of you are busy today with Holy Thursday, Passover and the upcoming Easter weekend.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by turning around and extending our hand through the door to America that our families got to go through. Moses led one of the largest groups of illegals through a desert after the state ordered the slaying of every first-born male amongst the aliens.
Lets allow Rosa, Evertina, Reyna, Estella, Bulfrano, Norma, Bruna, and Amado to pass over, too
These individuals have not been allowed to work for the past six months. If you would like to make a contribution to help them personally, you may send a check to:
Holy Rosary Solidarity Fund 2424 18th Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404
* 100% of your contributions will go directly to these workers.
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