Rally on the Painesville Square

April 1, 2010

Last year a Latino father in Ashtabula was deported because of false documentation. Not an unusual occurrence in Northeastern Ohio. He left behind a wife and three children. The wife soon grew despondent and could no longer work. As she became more depressed, the oldest daughter had to step up and take care of the younger children. Eventually it became too much for the daughter. Last week she committed suicide. She was twelve years old. A rally was organized on the square in Painesville and I was asked to speak as a representative of the nursery industry. I wrote the words below and had the Hispanic ladies at our nursery translate it into Spanish. I practiced it a couple times in front of them, to their great amusement. At the rally there were over 100 Hispanics…people of all ages…some local supporters…and some ‘Grass Roots’ demonstrators carrying signs. The police kept them on the far side of the square but they tried to make a lot of noise to distract us. It was a beautiful spring day. When it was my turn to speak, I walked up the steps to the gazebo, took the microphone, and began speaking a couple lines at a time…first in Spanish, then in English. Veronica, the organizer, stayed close to help me out with the Spanish but I managed to stumble through it all on my own.

There are too many crying children, who can no longer be with their parents.
Too many crying parents who must leave their little ones behind.
Too many arrests and too many deportations.
Too much fear for people who just want to work and live in peace.
Too many problems in Mexico…violence, corruption, bad conditions…too many reasons to leave…too many reasons to never go back.
Too many problems with our immigration laws here in America…to many people who must break those laws to find work and a better life.
I am a nurseryman and a businessman. We obey the laws as best we can. But something must be done to improve the laws.

Nurseries want three things.
We want new AgJobs legislation to make it easier to legally bring workers here to work in our nurseries. We need skilled workers who return every year and AgJobs H2A Visas can help. Plus, the new legislation would help workers to live hire year-round and have a path to permanent legal status.
We want comprehensive immigration reform. The system is broken and we need to fix it. Our elected officials don’t want to face up to this…they want to leave it the same for another twenty years… We elected them and we must make them fix the broken system.
And…we want no additional enforcement efforts…no more Arizonas. This is a problem for all America and we can’t fix it by making laws in one city…one county…or one state.
That’s what nurseries want.

But I would like to see more…I would like to see a legalization of all the workers…all the workers…who are here now. We have a bad problem…how can we fix it without inviting the people who have already started their lives here in through the front door. Why not let them raise their hands without fear of arrest…without fear of being sent away? There is no other practical way to fix this problem.
The border is much stronger now…it is very difficult for new people to come across…so why not ask those who are here to stand up and be counted. Why not have a fair program where employers can help those workers who turn out to have bad documentation…help them gain legal status…

America is a great country. I love America and northeastern Ohio. But sometimes America moves very slowly. It takes a long time sometimes before we get things right. It takes many people joining hands and speaking out and sending letters and going to Washington…before we get things right.
Mexicans are a good people with strong families…strong work ethic…strong commitment to their employer and their community.
I would like to see America become stronger and better…by letting all the workers stand up and be counted…without fear…without any more arrests…without any more deportations…
without any more crying children and crying parents…

I would like to see America become stronger and better…by letting all the Latino workers from other lands…with their great spirit and hard work…help make America an even better place…truly…a place with liberty and justice and jobs for all.