Amid the atmosphere of bustling market stalls and the scent of tamales and moo shu pork, 50 people, many of them first generation immigrants, listened to and participated in a forum on immigration on Saturday, September 13. Representative Keith Ellison gave his constituents a taste of his policy at his campaign-sponsored forum at Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market.
The congressman from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district made promises for comprehensive immigration reform that echoed and mirrored the concerns of his district.
“I am here with a group of Hispanic women leaders, and one of the biggest issues to them is driver’s license reform,” said Hispanic activist Maria Reyes, “we all deserve a driver’s license.”
Ellison agreed that the driver’s license issue was a major concern.
“A driver’s license should be for driving, not for citizenship,” Ellison said “But I have no problem granting driver’s licenses solely based on whether or not a person can operate a motor vehicle…citizenship or status should have nothing to do with it.”
Ellison, who has already authored a bill for immigration reform, says that there are at least 150 votes in the House of Representatives in favor of a comprehensive immigration bill, and also that more support can be gained if Americans make an effort to elect progressive leaders in the November elections.
Ellison said that the number of immigrants in the U.S. is closely tied to our country’s economic policies.
“We’ve got to stop and think about how NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] affects immigration-our trade policies are affecting workers around the world…the state of Ohio has lost over 100,000 jobs because of NAFTA, and Minnesota could be in the same boat.”
Ellison stated that he does not support NAFTA in its present form.
Ellison also opposed the idea of a guest worker program, saying it denies workers even the basic right to be in a union. “I don’t believe in a guest-worker program because it locks people in a second-class role,” Ellison said.
Ellison finished by telling the gathered activists and market-goers “If you want a president who is going to care about civil rights, I’m telling you and your friends to vote for Obama.”
Katie Mocol is a student at Hamline University and an intern at the TC Daily Planet.