Janitors "Occupy" Federal Building Over Immigration

By Jill Replogle
November 18, 2011

Immigration Reform Protests

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Scenes from a recent immigration reform march in downtown San Diego inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Video by Nicholas McVicker.

SAN DIEGO -- Pro-immigrant protestors hope to piggyback on the attention generated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and draw attention to the stalled effort to reform U.S. immigration laws.

On Thursday, more than 100 janitors and their supporters marched through the streets of downtown. They ended at a plaza in front of the federal building.

The unionized janitors were protesting the Obama administration’s focus on enforcing current immigration laws rather than reforming those laws.

"We're tired of the attacks on immigrants, on working people," said Rosa López, a union leader and janitor who works in downtown San Diego. "We work very hard every night cleaning the toilets that no one else wants to clean."

Protestors chanted "We are the 99 percent!" borrowing the now-famous battle cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“So much of the discussion about the 99 percent has gone on without discussion of a true background of that 99 percent, and that’s the immigrant workforce,” said Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Labor Council.

Gonzalez said the protest was to remind people that comprehensive immigration reform is still pending.

“And as a result, the type of immigration enforcement we’re seeing is tearing families apart,” she said.

Gonzalez said three janitorial companies in San Diego have recently been told by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to expect an audit of employee work documents. The audits come just as janitors are preparing to negotiate a new contract with employers.