Using the plight of undocumented immigrants and farmworkers to draw a stark contrast between a United States led by his wife or one led by billionaire Donald J. Trump, former President Bill Clinton made the case in a 20-minute address to an audience of about 1,000 at Rabobank Arena Sunday afternoon to close the United Farm Workers Constitutional Convention.
“She is for building bridges of opportunity, not walls,” said Clinton as he spoke from a prepared speech. “This election is about whether you believe we can grow together, live together. If you say ‘Yes we can’ (Sí se puede), Hillary is your candidate for president.”
Clinton – who is scheduled to appear at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union on Monday morning and later in the day in Sacramento – praised the work of the UFW and farmworkers overall.
“You are the strength of America. I want to thank the farmworkers for many things,” said Clinton, who arrived 1½ late for his scheduled 2 p.m. appearance. “You inspire people. We are going to define America for a long time to come in this election.
“We are going to say to people around the world that people from different backgrounds and different faiths can live together, vote together and build a whole different future if everyone is treated equally and fairly.”
Hillary Clinton has built a large delegate lead over Democratic challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. However, Sanders has refused to concede the raise and has vowed to stay in the race until the final primary votes are cast. Clinton is hoping that a strong showing in California’s June 7 primary will cement her as the Democratic candidate to face Trump.
Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State who spoke at the UFW convention in Fresno in 2008 when she was facing Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been endorsed by the UFW and former UFW official Dolores Huerta.
Part of her strategy, shown thus far in campaign ads and speeches, is to show how Trump’s words attack the Latino community, an important source of votes for her candidacy.
The former president spoke comfortably and was greeted with applause during parts of his speech, especially when he said his wife would make sure that, within the first 100 days of her presidency, she would introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
“We need to vote with a trust in the future we can build together,” said Clinton.
State Senate leader vows to help farmworkers
Prior to Clinton’s speech, state Sen. Pro Tem Kevin De León –who once said there was nothing but “tumbleweeds” in the San Joaquin Valley – delivered a rousing speech in Spanish vowing to help farmworkers and other immigrants gain equality in pay and other benefits.
“Did you come here to seek public assistance?” asked De León.
“Did you come here to work?”
De Leon outlined legislation that has been passed that will help most farmworkers, including an expansion of Medi-Cal that will provide health care for undocumented children under 18 years of age.
“More than 170,000 undocumented youth under 18 will get medical care,” said De León, who spoke just after the lunch hour. “You deserve health care and respect!”
De Leon also said state lawmakers are working on legislation that will provide overtime pay for farmworkers.
“Earning $10 an hour, which is the minimum wage, is gaining $20,000 a year before taxes,” said De León.
That income, he said, is not benefitting in the world’s richest country. That amount, added De León, is not enough to pay for housing, clothing, food and other necessities.
“We are looking to pass legislation to pay overtime for farmworkers,” said De León to loud applause. “It’s not just that they work more than 80, 90 hours without overtime pay.
“Work in the fields is very dignified,” he said.
Rentería addresses convention
Amanda Rentería, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, also addressed the crowd.
Entering the stage to the song ‘Mujeres Valientes,’ Rentería preceded to speak in Spanish about how special the Central Valley is to her. She was born in Redbanks and graduated as the top student from Woodlake High School.
After earning degrees from Stanford and Harvard, Rentería eventually landed in Washington, D.C. where she became chief of staff for Michigan Sen. Debbie Stebenow.
It was while working there that Renteria said she realized the important role that farmworkers have.
“I remember sitting at lunch and seeing the fruits and vegetables coming up and saying ‘That reminds me of home,’” she said.
Her lunchmates would ask, “Oh, is your father a farmer?”
“With pride and love, my father and others picked what you are eating here today. I am the daughter of a farmworker,” said Renteria. “I’m the daughter of a community that wakes up before the sun to go pick the food you eat.”
Rentería emphasized the need for Latinos to get out and vote in the upcoming primary.
“There is no more important election for our community, for what we fight for, for what we do every day,” said Rentería. “It is time to show the country and the world we are a better place and better world” that what Trump has defined as the immigrant community.
Labor Secretary lobbies for Hillary Clinton
Labor Secretary Tom Pérez, speaking mostly in Spanish, said Trump is not about unifying all of the country.
“America is at its best when we celebrate our diversity,” said Pérez.
He praised Hillary Clinton for “being a dreamer and a doer.”
“She wants to create an opportunity, not construct walls,” said Pérez. “The only thing Trump wants is to build walls.”