By José López Bribiesca
One person alone cannot change the injustices of the world, but together the people can change the laws of the land, said an activist lawyer whose work has international reach.
This was the main point made by Monica Ramirez, deputy director of the Center for Migrant Rights Inc., as the keynote speaker at the Cesar Chavez Memorial Dinner Friday, May 2, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Ramirez emphasized it took a massive effort to subside the anti-immigrant laws passed in some states earlier this decade, which caused initial panic and anger from immigrants nationwide.
“I participated in all efforts to bring about a change to those laws so that they don’t remain in effect,” said Ramirez. “And I can say with pride that we are here at this time when the laws in Alabama, Arizona
and elsewhere are not in full force as they were, and that’s because of all the efforts we made together.”
This dinner has been put together three consecutive years by the Worker’s Justice Center of Northwest Arkansas to honor the struggle and legacy of Chavez, Latino civil rights leader of the 60s.
Ramirez, daughter of Mexican immigrants, thanked her parents for instilling the work ethic and sense of justice that Chavez preached.
She also praised the center’s work.
“What you are doing, what you are achieving is something that not only impacts this community or workers living here, it’s also having an impact on other communities,” Ramirez said.
The dinner provided an opportunity to bring together community leaders from various sectors of Northwest Arkansas, such as Carmen Chong Gum, Consul General of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Even though the Marshallese community in Springdale is large and has been in the area for several years, many of them still do not understand their rights as workers in the U.S., Gum said.
“Standing up and defending what is right is a new concept for our people, because our culture is focused on being polite and respectful to the point that young people can not talk back to their elders,” said Gum. “Thank you for including our people in your important work ensuring that our people understand their rights in the workplace.”
The center also presented awards to people who have defended immigrant workers’ rights, and to some Hispanic center members who have gone through various training courses to understand and defend their working rights.