Alejandra Juarez is on a mission to change the way immigrants are being treated. Juarez, a Mexican-American activist for immigrant workers’ rights, spoke Nov. 10 in the Sunnen Lounge about the unjust hardships she and her family experienced as immigrants.
“If we wait for politicians to change things, we are just going to die waiting,” she said.
Juarez, who grew up in a farming community in California, is currently traveling across the country informing communities about the injustices immigrants face and the misconceptions engulfing them.
Last year, Juarez said she worked on a campaign to draft a different version of the Dream Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors). The Dream Act allows undocumented youth to get financial help for college. However, there are hurdles students often encounter. In many cases, the act requires military service.
Another hurdle she believes Mexican-American immigrants face is the misconception that anti-immigration sentiments come from the Republican sector. However, Juarez points out many anti-immigration laws have passed under President Barack Obama, and the reform he promised hasn’t come. Over half a million people have been deported under the Obama Administration, which is more than any other administration had before.
“The process of turning this from a civil issue to a criminal one is going to inevitably cause a lot of tension,” Juarez said.Juarez said one of the reasons Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. is because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She explained how the signing of the treaty resulted in the relocation of jobs.
However, Juarez said what caused the majority of immigration from South and Central America to the U.S. was the displacement of campesinos, or small-scale farmers. The farmers in Mexico could no longer compete with the lowered prices of beans coming from the U.S. This induced the dislocation of farmers, as beans are a crucial part of the diet in Mexico.
Juarez said in the early 1990s, the Peso went down in Mexico and the U.S. lent money to the nation. Because Mexico is unable to pay back the money, they allowed U.S. corporations to operate in the country with little restrictions and allowed them to buy Mexican banks and oil.
Juarez said that for anything to change for immigrants in America, people must know the background of these vital issues.