We talk to Political Analyst Alfredo Gutierrez about a “Freedom Ride” on buses to Washington, D.C., as activists fight for civil rights for undocumented workers.
>> Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to "Horizonte" where we discuss current issues through an Hispanic lens. Like the freedom riders of the '60s, unions are taking the bus time prove the lives of the immigrant workers. We'll take a look at the immigrant worker freedom ride of 2003. Plus, Mexican nationals don't have to worry about using matricula consular I.D. cards at banks after the U.S. Treasury Department okays the use of the I.D.s. We'll about why the decision is important to financial institutions and law enforcement. An Arizona woman gets honored by a local group for her work with the elderly. You'll get to meet her.
>> Jose Cardenas: Civil rights activists used the tactic in the '60s. Now unions hope it helps immigrant workers get more rights. A moment --. . . . . . . .
>> Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm headquarter headquarter. Welcome to "Horizonte" where we discuss current issues through an Hispanic lens. Like the freedom riders of the '60s, unions are taking the bus time prove the lives of immigrant workers. We'll take a look at the immigrant worker freedom ride of 2003. Plus, Mexican nationals don't have to worry about using matricula consular I.D. cards at banks after the U.S. Treasury Department okays the use of the I.D.s. We'll talk about why the decision is important to financial institutions and law enforcement. An Arizona woman gets honored by a local group for her work with the elderly. You'll get to meet her. .
>> Jose Cardenas: Civil rights activists used the tactic in the '60s. Now unions hope it helps immigrant workers get more rights. In a moment I'll talk to political analyst Alfredo Gutirrez about the latest effort, but first Paul Atkinson takes us to the capital where the immigrant workers freedom ride made a stop.
>> Reporter: A familiar chant greets a busload of immigrant workers from California. They stopped at the state capitol Tuesday night on their way to Washington D.C. Their goal, to change current immigration policy.
>> Carlos Durate:We want to elevate this to a debate in which people really understand that the immigration phenomenon is affecting the United States as a whole and not just immigrants.
>> Reporter: Hundreds of local union members turn out for a rally welcoming the immigrant workers freedom ride. The local event and trip to the nation's capital is sponsored by unions. While a few protesters let their signs do the talking, those who speak at the rally tell of the concerns and frustrations with immigrant workers treated as second-class citizens.
>> John Martin: They should take care of you and not throw you on the side when you're finished.
>> Reporter: About two dozen people from the Valley will join the ride to Washington D.C., including Martin Hernandez.
>> Martin Hernandez: There's a lot of expectation going on with -- exploitation going on with immigrant people.
>> Reporter: Those on the immigrant worker freedom ride seek change in four areas: citizenship granted to legal immigrants who have been here an extended period of time and amnesty for undocumented immigrants who are here illegally, something the bush administration had pushed until the terrorist attacks two years ago. They also want family members to be able to join them in the U.S. More rights for immigrant workers on the job. And the protection of civil rights and civil liberties threatened by the U.S.A. patriot act.
>>Martin Hernandez: We know that this is not something that is going to happen overnight, but at least it's going to be the course -- it's going to follow a path.
>> Reporter: One of those invited to speak is 18-year-old JULIANA who faces deportation after being detained at the Canadian border during a trip back east for a high school composition.
>> YuIiana Huicochea: I hope when you get to Washington you see your representatives you tell them that we want to give back. We want to give back to the country that has given us so much.
>> Jose Cardenas: Joining me now is former Senate majority leader Alfredo Gutirrez. Mr. Gutierrez is a political consultant and former democratic candidate for governor. Alfredo, welcome to "Horizonte."
>> Alfredo Gutirrez: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. This is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity, wonderful effort.
>> Jose Cardenas: Thank you. Alfredo, the freedom ride of 2003 is patterned after the freedom ride of 1961. There have been reports of tensions between the Latino and the African-American community because of that comparison. What's your take on that?
>> Alfredo: Well, I think that's true, there have, indeed, been tensions. This freedom ride is exceedingly controversial. It's controversial in the Hispanic community. It's controversial because we've adopted the phrase "freedom ride." It's controversial almost everywhere in this country. In that regard it's almost precisely similar to the freedom ride in the '60s. It was exceedingly controversial also. We seem to forget -- we seem to become nostalgic when we think of Cesar Chavez as a paternalistic nice man in a nice time and everybody appreciated him. In fact, during that time, during that movement, we were exceedingly unpopular. Cesar was often characterized as a communist and the epitome of evil and those of us who organized around him as disciples of Moscow perhaps even. What we were after is basic human rights for farm workers. Perhaps we achieved that. But, you know, the effort goes on. This freedom ride is for rights -- basic human rights for perhaps the most marginalized people in this country, immigrants.
>> Jose Cardenas: Now, part of the tension between the Latino and black communities on this would be the fact that you have some people in the African-American community who are competing for jobs with these same immigrants, some of whom are here without papers.
>> Alfredo: That's the same tension, I think, within the Hispanic community, people who view this as Hispanics being monolithic on this point I think are wrong. First of all, there is that issue. But my response to that is relatively simple. As long as you keep workers in this country without the right to organize, without basic civil rights, in an undocumented fashion, people who are so intimidated and terrified of making complaints to hour and wage divisions, who work 10, 12 hours for 8 hours pay, as long as you keep people in this codified second-rate status, you will push wages and working conditions downwards, and so the -- and so the status of undocumented workers is hurting all of us, it's hurting the Hispanic working people here as legal residents, hurting African-Americans, hurting all ofness this country. As a matter of public policy the best thing we could do is push wages upwards is give these people a right to organize, a right to the same basic human demands that every other worker has in America. When that happens, when that happens, things begin to change. There are whole industries and we know it, roofers, for example, which is overwhelmingly dominated by undocumented workers. It's also one of the lowest paying jobs in construction. I think the two are related.
>> Jose Cardenas: Alfredo, as you pointed out, this is controversial within the Hispanic community itself, and Hispanics, many of them, voted in support of the antiimmigrant measures in California just as many African-Americans did. Within the local Hispanic community, what are you seeing in response to this freedom ride?
>>Alfredo: I think you've got -- you've got a very active and outspoken community. But you also have another set of people who haven't deemed it politically correct yet to hold rallies, at least the majority, who are very concerned about this, they're very concerned that the people who are taking part in this are marginalizing Hispanics, people who are -- for example, about affirmative action and contract set asides and that level of middle class, upper middle class acceptance in this country, very upset -- concerned that this battle at the economic fringe is somehow going to damage their role and their efforts. I don't think that will happen but I think that concern is certainly there. There's another level of that concern, and that's true with low-income workers, the concern that somehow these people become legally resident here, they'll take their jobs. In fact, probably the truth is, if they become legal workers, everyone's statness this country, everyone's ability to demand a decent wage is going to increase.
>> Jose Cardenas: What about this particular tactic of the freedom ride? In the 1960s that freedom ride was met with violence. Do you see that happening here?
>> Alfredo: Well, I hope not. Yesterday at the capitol there was some moments of tension. Nothing that evolved into violence. But it's just beginning. There were a few hundred people at the capital. This freedom ride is beginning from cities all over this country, from Florida, from Los Angeles, from Washington, from San Francisco from Boston, from Texas, from Minneapolis, and all of them converging on Washington and then New York. It's going to touch perhaps 200 communities. So it's very possible as it grows and it becomes a major, major movement that it will attract the kinds of folks, skinheads, et cetera, that we hope it doesn't happen. But it may.
>> Jose Cardenas: Realistically what can they hope to achieve with this freedom ride?
>> Alfredo: Well, what do movements of this kind always achieve? Well, the first -- at first they achieve controversy and notoriety. At first they become objects of derision there will be many people suggesting we call it off somewhere between here and Chicago because it's becoming much too tense and too negative. But ultimately it's a matter of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people, mobilizing certainly the immigrant, but also the rest of us who perhaps have become a bit too complacent about the plight of so many people in this country.
>> Jose Cardenas: Is in the best way to mobilize? Invoking the freedom ride invokes almost a see crud image among those people who fought for civil rights which is part of the resentment some in the African-American community had. Is this the right way to do it?
>>Alfredo: I think absolutely it is. What we're fighting for is civil rights, human rights. It's easy to say, well, these people are from another country. You must remember in the '60s African-Americans in many states in this country were less and considered less legally statutorily than their white counterparts. It is difficult to remember -- certainly many people didn't experience it -- at one point we could have become South Africa and there were people, George Wallace, for example, but there were many people throughout the south and the north who wanted in fact that to occur, who wanted apartheid to occur and not extend basic citizenship rights to African-Americans. It is precisely the same battle that goes on today.
>> Jose Cardenas: Alfredo, in Arizona will this have the effect of further polarizing the community at large? Ironically the same day that the freedom riders stopped here in Phoenix we have a KAET poll that show 70% of those polled would vote to protect Arizona antiimmigrant initiative. What's your thought on that?
>> Alfredo: I think there's no question there's a real risk about that. Because on the one hand, you have converging elements here. You have an economy that's in the doldrums, it's moving downwards. You have -- you have a lack of confidence in this economy. You have the Republican administration that's now recognizes that it's in deep trouble. There's one historic pattern always, and that is when the economy moves downwards, hostility against immigrants grows, whether it's the know nothing movement or this.
>> Jose Cardenas: Thank you very much for joining us on "Horizonte," Alfredo Gutirrez, your insights are very helpful as always. Hope to see you again soon. It's a card issued by the consular general of Mexico that identifies a person as a Mexican citizen. In a moment we will talk to a person from the banking industry and a local law enforcement official, but first Mike Sauceda tells us more about the Mexican registry cards.
>> Reporter: A full house at the consulate general at Mexico in Phoenix on a hot summer day. A good portion of the people are in line for something hotter than the summer weather, the newly revised, matricula, or the Mexican consulate I.D. card. It's not new.
>>Alan Hubbard: The matricula was created as a registry of Mexican nationals. If agencies, if banks decide to use it because it's useful for them, that's fine with us. Consulates have been issuing them for more than 100 years now. This isn't something new, a new tactic being used. This is something that's been used for a long time.
>> Reporter: At the consulate, those seeking a card must prove they are Mexican citizens, because only Mexican citizens can get the cards.
>>Alan: So they need an original birth certificate or an original passport or an original military card which are documents issued only to Mexican citizens. But once they prove they're Mexican citizens, we then need to prove who they actually are, their identity. They need additional documents, identification, school records, something with their picture on it, an official document with their picture that proves who they are. And then they need to prove that they live within our jurisdiction.
>> Reporter: The card contains basic information about the bearer.
>> Alan: The card includes the name of the person, hyphenated last names because in Mexico we use the father's last name and the mother's last name. So both last names are included. Date of birth. Place of birth. Their address here in the U.S. And the picture of the person, their signature, and the database includes next of kin information. So it's, God forbid, someone is in an accident and we need to notify family we have that information available.
>> Reporter: He says the card is loaded with over 20 security features making it almost impossible to forge. It helps the banks and government agencies, especially police who are accepting the cards as identification. The consulate provides decoders for law enforcement and trains them on proper usage. With it police can check several features to ascertain the legitimacy of the cards. The cards have have security features visible only under black light. There are have been complaints that cards are being used by those who imgrated illegally. He says the consulate does not check into immigration status when issuing the cards.
>> Alan: First of all, we don't ask. Why? Because we're an office of the Mexican government. Our services are for Mexican citizens. So as a Mexican citizen you're entitled. Secondly, the consulate is considered Mexican territory. So why would we ask a Mexican citizen within the territory to prove their status from another country?
>> Reporter: Regardless of who is using the cards, this door will keep swinging open long after the weather has cooled down as people continue to line up for the matricula consular I.D.
>> Jose Cardenas: Earlier I talked to Gabriel Manjarrez who testified on behalf of banks before Congress about the matricula. Also the assistant police chief in Phoenix joined the discussion. Here is that interview. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Gabrielle, last week the United States Treasury Department reaffirmed a decision made last may that banks could accept the matricula consular I.D. cards. Why did they make this decision?
>> Gabriel Manjarrez: Well, Jose, what happened is that they decided that banks could actually fend for themselves and be aware of the risks that they're taking, and they're the best judges of how to use a matricula or not and whether that risk factor is warranted is each bank's decision.
>> Jose Cardenas: Why were they looking at the issue again?
>>Gabriel: Well, some members of the Congress were objecting or had challenges about the security and safety of the matricula. So the department of treasury decided to take a look again at section 326 of the patriot act, which talks about the section about proper identification for financial institutions.
>> Jose Cardenas: So the original ruling was in conjunction with the U.S.A. patriot act?
>> Gabriel That's correct. That's correct, in May.
>> Jose Cardenas: And what process did they go through in this review of their original decision?
>> Gabriel: Well, they went through an extraordinary process. They were taking very seriously the questions raised in Congress. So they took comments from banks, financial institution and law enforcement agencies and they received about 24,000 comments out of which 80% were -- over 80% were favorable to keeping it as it is.
>> Jose Cardenas: And when they finally issued their reaffirmation, what was the rationale for doing that.
>> Gabriel: They said there was no new information. They believed the best people to gauge whether or not an I.D. is proper risk for a financial institution is the financial institution itself.
>> Jose Cardenas: Gabriel, from the bank's perspective, what do see they as the benefits of accepting the matricula card?
>>Gabriel: We're serving our customers. They're an underserved population who that's their only form of I.D., and our risk assessment is that we can't take that I.D. and open bank accounts for them.
>> Jose Cardenas: What's been the bank's experience with respect to the risk of fraud?
>>Gabriel: We've had absolutely no difference with accounts opened with matricula and non-ma trick ah law I.D.s. They are the same.
>> Jose Cardenas: What other benefits are there to the banks or the customers or the nation as a hold come from the matricula consular card?
>>Gabriel: First of all, you don't want people walking around with lots of cash in their pocket. So we provide a safe haven for that money. Second, of course, is it's much more difficult, we're talking about national security, it's much more difficult to track cash transactions than to track transactions taking place within the banking system. So we're providing a safe haven for that money but we're also providing a way to make sure the money is inside the system.
>> Jose Cardenas: With a about tax information?
>> Gabriel: That's another good point. The tax -- once the money is inside our banking system, if we receive a Social Security number or individual tax I.D. number, then the individual gets a 1099 form, and if we don't get one, then we automatically retain 30% of interest earned for tax purposes.
>> Jose Cardenas: Chief Ontiveros, at the federal level you have the Treasury Department and I understand the state department basically in favor of accepting the matricula consular but you also have the Justice Department, homeland security and the FBI at a minimum raising concerns. What's the view from local law enforcement?
>> Chief Silverio Ontiveros: Here locally in Phoenix, we've been accepting the matricula consular since the mid-'90s. We just use it as a form of identification. It hasn't been a big issue until just recently.
>> Jose Cardenas: With a about other police departments?
>>Silverio: I think most other departments accept it as a form of I.D. Again, doesn't give you rights to anything special that anyone else would have. It doesn't give you authorization to drive a vehicle. We use it to make a decision, and, again, it's left to the officer's discretion, because, again, lots of forms of identification can be used fraudulently or be obtained fraudulently, including Arizona driver's licenses, as you know, but we use it to make a decision if we're going to be citing someone or booking them in jail, and typically for misdemeanor crimes, low crimes, property crimes, et cetera, and also driving violations.
>> Jose Cardenas: As I understand it, there are about a thousand law enforcement agencies that accept the matricula consular. Is that your understanding as well?
>> Jose Cardenas: What other benefits do you think there are from the acceptance of the matricula?
>>Silverio: As Gabriel said, back in 2001 we had 377 home invasions just that year alone and many of them involving immigrant families as victims, and, again, many times the suspects knew they were going to have cash at home. So, you know, the fact that they can use -- put this money in banks makes it a lot safer for their families and for the neighborhoods that they live in.
>> Jose Cardenas: Are there any ways in which the matricula could be improved?
>> Silverio: Well, yes, there is. Just like there's opportunities to improve all forms of identification, including the Arizona driver's license. And we've met with the consul general and discussed some of those issues and have suggested that the different pieces of information be added to that.
>> Jose Cardenas: For example, what?
>> Silverio: Well, again, the physical description. We'd love to see finger prints, a finger print those I.D. cards. I think it makes them more powerful form of identification, saying that that person holding that card is that person.
>> Jose Cardenas: That would be a way of enhancing its utility to law enforcement?
>> Silverio: Sure. But that's true with Arizona driver's license, too.
>> Jose Cardenas: Speaking of driver's licenses, that's another hot topic. There have been proposal to issue driver's licenses to people who don't have proper documentation in terms of immigration. What's the Phoenix Police Department's view on that?
>> Silverio: Our position for several years now has been that we support the issuing of driver's licenses to anybody who is going to be driving in the State of Arizona. Our position, our policy is that you should not be driving a vehicle without a valid Arizona driver's license, but there are many people, many immigrants, that live here in Phoenix and the Valley that are driving today without a driver's license and we think for traffic safety purposes, public safety purposes, that they should be required to take the test just like everyone else, know the laws of the State of Arizona, and then be issued a driver's license if they pass those tests.
>> Jose Cardenas: There's a lot of opposition both to the acceptance of the matricula and to driver's licenses. What do you their the most compelling reasons to oppose the acceptance of the matricula?
>>Silverio: Well, I think some of it, it comes back to homeland security, but, again, the matricula doesn't give anybody any special authorization to do anything that any other person has. It just gives them a form of identification, and, you know, again, if someone is going to be committing a crime a violent crime, they're going to be going to jail and they're going to be totally finger printed, no matter if they have an Arizona driver's license or matricula consular.
>> Jose Cardenas: Gabriel, any final thoughts on the wisdom of accepting the matricula consular?
>> Gabriel: Yeah, I think that the -- what some voices say is that the matricula actually encourages illegal immigration, and we believe that in order to serve the underserved and to serve the underbanked we will take any kind of identification that the federal government deems is safe and proper as the Treasury Department has done.
>> Jose Cardenas: Does it in fact encourage illegal immigration in your view?
>> >> Gabriel: I do not believe it encourages illegal immigration. On the contrary, I believe it helps control the flow of funds and it also helps, as Chief Ontiveros was saying, people with driver's licenses to help them get a driver's license and hopefully like the State of California that already accepts the matricula to issue a driver's license.
>> Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us today on "Horizonte."
>> Silverio: Thank you.
>> Jose Cardenas: Valle del Sol is a community organization that serves the behavioral health needs of the Valley's Hispanic community and provides leadership training for Latinos. Each year it honors Hispanic leaders for contributions to their community. One of those honored this year is Olivia Guerrero. She is on the leading edge of one of the fastest growing industries, taking care of the elderly. As Executive Director of the Pinal Gila Council on Senior Citizens, she does not see seniors retiring to the sideslines. 12 news' Nicolle Hernandez reports.
>> Olivia Guerreo: A senior never stops growing and stops wanting, stops needing the attention, the love. I'll look into it.
>> Reporter: Olivia oversees programs for 52,000 elderly in central Arizona.
>> Olivia: From that very first job, that very first day I knew this was where I was to be. They are an untapped resource, and they still have a lot to give. All you have to do is ask.
>> Reporter: And Olivia does ask. 78-year-old Johnny Lopez is her manager for the senior living facility in Eloy. Olivia also relies on her strengths of family and tradition.
>> Olivia: My family has been my ace in the hole.
>> Reporter: Her parents started a New Year's day tradition years ago bringing a pot of menudo to share with the seniors.
>> Olivia: They've taken care of us, they've raised us, and we owe it to them.
>> Reporter: She hopes her grandchildren will do the same.
>> Olivia: Also to take care of seniors, take care of their nana also.
>> Reporter: Olivia's own mother inspires her to dedicate time and energy to others.
>> Olivia: I want to get that love -- I want to feel that -- like I was a child, you know, walking home from school and smelling the tortillas and the tea with cinnamon in it. I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have my mother.
>> Jose Cardenas: That's it for tonight on "Horizonte." Thanks for joining us.
In this segment:
Alfredo Gutierrez: Political analyst;
STAY in touch
Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: