Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – whose father was an early supporter of César E. Chávez and the fledging United Farm Workers in the 1960s – blasted the idea of constructing a wall on the U.S.-México border.
The country could rid itself of 11 million undocumented residents without building a wall or hiring extra immigration officers if it brought “one lawsuit against an employer who hires illegal immigrants,” said Kennedy, speaking to about 80 UFW supporters outside the Robert E. Coyle Federal Courthouse in downtown Fresno Friday afternoon.
“You fine them $50,000 and put them in jail for a year,” said Kennedy. “Tell them, ‘Anybody else does it, we’re going to do the same thing.’ Every immigrant in this country will self deport.”
Kennedy, who left immediately following his 7½-minute talk, said that won’t happen because agriculture and the country are addicted to cheap labor.
“They don’t really want to get rid of illegal immigrants,” said Kennedy. “They want them in a constant state of fear and anxiety so that they can take advantage of them, and so that they can turn them into slave labor.
“That is what is happening here,” said Kennedy, who criticized President Donald J. Trump’s executive order to build a wall, hire 15,000 more immigration agents, and, began immediate deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants. Kennedy never mentioned Trump by name.
The undocumented immigrant, said Kennedy, “come here and work hard and take the jobs that the American people don’t want. These are the people who feed us. These are the people who take care of us.”
Kennedy said “lover and understanding and compassion” will make America great, “not the hatred, not the exclusion, not the bigotry, not the prejudice.”
Rodríguez underscored the value of undocumented immigrants who work in agriculture, hotels, restaurants and other industries. If all undocumented workers are deported, he asked, “then who is going to feed America?”
“Who is going to feed the guests at Trump hotels and golf courses?”
“Who is going to feed Donald Trump if we don’t have the Gerawan farmworkers?”
Rodríguez said many agricultural leaders either supported or contributed funds to the Trump presidential campaign.
The question for them, he said, is: “Do you stand with Trump and support his pledge to deport undocumented immigrants, including many farmworkers, or do you stand with farmworkers, immigrants, the folks who work so hard to ensure that the food is brought to our tables every day.”
Rodríguez said farmworkers will prevail in the end.