From El Salvador, Electrical Technician
[The 1970s and '80s were a tumultuous time in El Salvador, with the military-run dictatorship brutally cracking down on reformers, ultimately leading to revolutionary war that was fought until 1992. In 1980, Dagoberto Flores was working for the state-run phone company when he was fired for trying to organize a union. He was threatened with prison—and possibly worse—and was forced to leave his engineering studies, and his family moved to a chicken farm in the country. In 1990, he joined his family in Oregon and has been employed at Intel since 1992. Flores spends his time helping undocumented immigrants through the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee.—eds.]
"The Minute Men organized a protest in front of city hall a couple of months ago, and the banners they were holding had a lot of misspelled words. These people are fighting against immigrants because they think immigrants are taking away their jobs. Well, immigrants have the worst jobs because they either have a lack of education or a lack of English. Are these the jobs the Minute Men are fighting for? If that is the case, and if they're fighting for these jobs, it means the Minute Men don't have the right education. If they don't have the right education—as demonstrated by those banners—that means that this system has not provided for them. In that sense, the Minute Men aren't our enemies—they're victims of a system, and they don't know it. If we could convince them of this, we could join forces.
"History repeats itself. I'm reading Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States, and it's the same thing. The government used people as buffers to the Native Americans, and kept them fighting other groups, when the real enemy was the system.
"I'm a friend of the people at VOZ [the day laborer organization], and I like day laborers because they represent part of our population that is most exploited. So I proposed the idea of starting a philosophy study group with them. We meet every week for an hour or two hours, and we talk about everything. The idea is to make people think. We can talk about why people are considered 'illegal' or why they are 'legal.' Because they crossed a border? Who put the border there, and why? Or sometimes we'll talk about what it means to be 'good' or 'bad.'
"Immigrants' enemies say, 'You broke the law, and you need to pay for it.' To me it's yes, they broke the law, but they're working, they're paying taxes, and because they've been paying taxes, they're part of society, whether you like it or not. Just in Oregon, there are about 185,000 immigrants, contributing taxes from $2.5 billion in earnings per year. What happens to that money if they get deported? They deserve respect—we need to not just write letters to our congressmen; we need to demand freedom for them." (SM)