Centro Campesino is an Owatonna, Minnesota-based non-profit, membership organization founded in 1998 "to improve the lives of migrant workers and rural Latina/os and to create a strong southern Minnesota Latino/a voice." This organization states that it uses "direct service, popular education, advocacy and organizing" to achieve "positive social change." It targets its programs and services toward "the estimated 20,000 [to] 30,000 migrant agricultural workers who travel each year to work in Minnesota agriculture." Deeming the United States a nation rife with racism and discrimination, Centro Campesino works "to educate non-farm worker, non-Latino/a communities about the realities of Latino/a history and life in rural Minnesota, about racism and poverty and about the need for community organizing." It also sees one of its chief tasks as the "promot[ion] and develop[ment] of "anti-racist, inclusive leadership in European American communities."
Centro Campesino's programs and campaigns include the following:
Campaign for Worker Justice: This campaign conducts workshops around southern Minnesota “to teach workers their basic rights"; provides its members with free interviews with workers' compensation lawyers; utilizes “public direct action to put pressure on companies that refuse to negotiate with workers"; and urges workers to form "their own independent Unions that will give them the power to bargain and fight for their own cause."
Campaign for Fair Immigration Reform: "We seek an immigration reform … designed to protect undocumented workers' basic civil rights and reduce harassment and the fear of deportation."
Promoting Safe and Affordable Childcare: This program helps pay the cost of childcare for "migrant workers" while they are on the job.
Youth Organizing and Education: This program is designed to train junior high- and high-school students to become "new leaders for the movement of social justice." It also seeks to help pass the Minnesota version of the Dream Act, legislation that would allow illegal immigrants who graduate from a Minnesota High School to qualify for in-state tuition rates at state colleges.
Health Promoter Project: This program is designed to serve as "an informational resource and bridge between health institutions and the migrant and Latino/a community."
Affordable and Dignified Housing: This program aims to "promote the development of affordable housing for migrant workers in southern Minnesota" and "end racial discrimination when it comes to renting or buying a house or an apartment."
On May 1, 2001, members of Centro Campesino participated, along with such organizations as Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Pixies, in a pro-May Day march through downtown Minneapolis, carrying political signs and anarchist flags and shouting anti-corporate slogans. When the demonstrators reached the commons of a U.S. Courthouse, they moved toward the security line of police who were stationed there, and shouted in unison, "Shut this corporate system down!"
In July 2003, the Centro Campesino office in Minneapolis helped sponsor the Declaration of Civil Rights for Immigrants, which called for allowing illegal immigrants access to driver's licenses, and for placing restrictions on the federal government's authority to detain and deport illegals who have violated the law.
Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed an immigration law that would make possession of false identification a crime. Centro Campesino responded: “The best way to deal with false IDs possessed by people with no criminal intent is to make state IDs available to them." Regarding Pawlenty's proposal that would require police officers to check the citizenship and immigration status of every person booked on criminal charges, Centro Campesino responded, "Such laws have failed to work, result in arbitrary enforcement, and actually promote the use of false identification. … We should not divide our immigrant community into illegal/legal or good/bad." Instead the organization demands "comprehensive immigration reform on a federal level" that would grant amnesty to illegals.
Centro Campesino, which has endorsed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, is funded by the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, and several other foundations.