Centro Campesino (CC) is an Owatonna, Minnesota-based nonprofit 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.” By means of “direct service, popular education, advocacy and organizing” designed to promote “positive social change,” this organization 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.” Viewing the United States as a nation rife with racism and discrimination, CC 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 strives to develop “anti-racist, inclusive leadership in European American communities.”
Over the years, Centro Campesino has administered the following major initiatives:
* The Campaign for Worker Justice conducted workshops around southern Minnesota “to teach workers their basic rights”; provided its members with worker’s-compensation lawyers when there was a need; utilized “public direct action to put pressure on companies that refuse[d] to negotiate with workers”; and urged employees to form “their own independent Unions [to] give them the power to bargain and fight for their own cause.”
* The Campaign for Fair Immigration Reform sought to “protect undocumented workers’ basic civil rights and reduce harassment and the fear of deportation.”
* The Safe and Affordable Childcare program helped pay the cost of childcare for “migrant workers” while they were on the job.
* The Youth Organizing and Education program was designed to train junior-high and high-school students to become “new leaders for the movement of social justice.” It also strove to help pass a state-level version of the DREAM Act, legislation designed to allow illegal immigrants graduating from Minnesota high schools to qualify for discounted tuition rates at in-state colleges.
* The Health Promoter Project served as “an informational resource and bridge between health institutions and the migrant and Latino/a community.”
* The Affordable and Dignified Housing program aimed 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 such as: “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 permitting illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, and for restricting the federal government’s authority to detain and deport individuals who had violated immigration law.
Also in 2003, Centro Campesino endorsed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, which promoted comprehensive immigration reform and the creation of a pathway-to-citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.
In 2006, Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a state immigration law designed to (a) stiffen the penalties for carrying any form of false identification; (b) increase the fines against employers guilty of hiring illegal immigrants; and (c) authorize local police to check the citizenship and immigration status of suspects booked on criminal charges. CC responded by stating that “the best way to deal with false IDs possessed by people with no criminal intent is to make state IDs available to them.” Asserting, further, that “we should not divide our immigrant community into illegal/legal or good/bad,” CC called for “comprehensive immigration reform on a federal level.”
Centro Campesino continues to characterize comprehensive immigration reform as “the biggest issue” of our time, depicting as moral imperatives such themes as “family reunification” and the rights of workers who need “fairer” wages “in order to support their families.” Further, CC asserts that immigration reform would benefit the economy of Minnesota by fully unleashing the financial and entrepreneurial resources of immigrants who are currently in the U.S. illegally.
CC has received funding from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation, the Charles K. Blandin Foundation, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, the (now-defunct) Fannie Mae Foundation, the Grotto Foundation, the Jostens Foundation, the Mardag Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Saint Paul Foundation, and the Wells Fargo Foundation, among others.
Funder information provided courtesy of the Foundation Center.