Massive mobilizations for immigrant rights across the country have shifted the debate in Congress from criminalization to legalization. However, many workers unfairly lost their jobs because they went to the protests.
In Detroit, a meatpacking plant fired 21 workers the day after they attended an immigrants' rights rally.
In Bonita Springs, Fla., 10 restaurant workers were fired for missing their shifts to attend a rally.
In Tyler, Texas, 22 welders lost their jobs because they missed work for a demonstration in their city.
In Milwaukee, approximately 200 workers were fired after a march. In a few cases, such as at an Applebee's in Milwaukee, charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board to address the right of free speech and collective protected activity.
People shouldn't lose their jobs for asserting their rights, and most employers seemed to recognize this.
In Milwaukee, although 200 people were fired, most were eventually reinstated. And the event had broad support from the business community. Companies adjusted work hours and nearly 200 small businesses closed in solidarity.
On May 1, there will be another mobilization throughout the country as the immigrant rights movement calls on the government to pass legislation that includes a path to citizenship, worker rights protections, family unity and due process protections.
Once again, immigrants will take a risk by engaging in the quintessential American act of protest.
The wife of one of the fired workers I talked to expressed said, "I support my husband's decision to march, even if he lost his job. That day we were one small grain of rice trying to tip the balance."
Thanks to such courageous people, the balance is already tipping.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz is founder and director of Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee-based Latino organization dedicated to immigration reform. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.