Supporters of the 200 undocumented workers fired from Pacific Steel Casting Company held a “March for Dignity” Friday, expressing their frustration, demands for immigration reform and a commitment to continue fighting.
More than 400 workers, family members and supporters marched peacefully from City Hall beginning at 10 a.m. to the Pacific Steel plant in West Berkeley to protest a government audit of Pacific Steel that led to the recent firing of hundreds of undocumented workers who were employed there.
The protesters emphasized what they called the humanitarian costs of American immigration laws and announced that this would be the beginning of a prolonged struggle for change.
“We are workers … we are humans, we are families” said Jesus Prado on the steps of City Hall.
Protesters marched west on San Pablo Avenue, holding signs with slogans like “Treat humans humanly” and “Pacific Steel your heart is made of ice,” stressing the impact the recent firings have had on the workers and their families.
“It’s been scary … I’ve lived in the Bay Area my entire life, and now I might not be able to stay,” said Metzli Blanco Castano, the daughter of two workers at the plant.
The organizers of the event — although it was planned in response to Pacific Steel’s firings — were mainly against federal policy regarding immigration, specifically the I-9 audits, which they called “silent raids.”
“We want to bring visibility to the issue of I-9 audits and its impact on families and workers,” said Cinthya Munoz, one of the event’s organizers.
An I-9 audit, which is mandated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is intended to check workers’ eligibility for employment through the evaluation of the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9s that employees submit.
“For the audit, the blame is on the government,” said David Bacon, another of the event’s organizers. “There are a lot of things in this world that could be Pacific Steel’s fault, but this is not one of them.”
The march ended at the Pacific Steel plant around 2 p.m. with the protesters saying they would hold another march on May 1.