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Farmworkers Protest Immigration Changes

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: This is Mandalit Del Barco, in Bakersfield, California, where thousands of farm workers today left the fields to make their voices heard.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

DEL BARCO: Some of them held up signs that read, we are America, we help feed America, and Yo amo America, I love America. Some of them said they were undocumented workers, others legal immigrants, taking off time from work to be here. They wore white t-shirts and held up flags, the U.S. flag, the Mexican flag, and the flag from the United Farm workers. Dolores Huerta, one of the cofounders of the United Farm workers, was here to celebrate her birthday and also to march.

DOLORES HUERTA: You know, they're going to say, well, these are all undocumented people marching. No. These are, everybody here is united. We have the religious, the churches, we have labor unions, we have business, we have students, we have civic organizations. We have women's organizations. We're all together to ask for a just legalization bill in the U.S. Congress.

DEL BARCO: Huerta noted that the UFW has fought for undocumented workers since the days of the braceros, Mexicans who were brought here to serve as guest workers in the 1950s. During today's march, Cal State Bakersfield professor Gonzalo Santos expressed some of the local outrage.

GONZALO SANTOS: We, the immigrants living in the United States, are fed up with all these xenophobic attacks on our communities. And we are particularly appalled and outraged at the latest callous attempts by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives to harshly criminalize 12 million of those among us who are in this country maybe without papers, but who are the ones, are law-abiding, tax- paying, hard-working members of this community, contributing to the wealth and well-being of this country. We are here today to say that immoral law shall not pass.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

DEL BARCO: Sixty-one-year-old Marcano Ruiz(ph) is a member of the United Farm Workers. He says he took the day off from working a field, picking oranges.

MARCANO RUIZ: (Speaking Spanish)

DEL BARCO: Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Bakersfield, California. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.