Every month, BORDC honors an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law in his or her community. This month, the Patriot Award goes to siblings Ana Aguayo & Jose Luis Aguayo-Herrera from Arkansas for their courageous work defending civil rights and civil liberties.
Born in Mexico to low-income working parents, Ana & Jose became acquainted with the plights of the immigrant community at a young age. They personally witnessed many injustices that immigrant communities have endured, which they observed contributing to a culture of fear. After beginning her advocacy work in high school, where she worked as a legal translator for her local community, Ana continued her work in college, where she worked on wage-theft cases.
Today, Ana & Jose work together at the non-profit Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC), serving lower income workers in the surrounding area. The organization focuses largely on labor-related issues, specifically focusing on abuses within the workplace, including non-payments, underpayments, insecure working conditions, harassment, and health and safety training. Their work aspires to improve working conditions, educate the working community, and challenge the myth that immigrant workers are not entitled to constitutional rights.
The NWAWJC has focused on four central campaigns; one addresses mediation between workers and their employers in recovering unpaid wages; the second encourages workers to speak up about their circumstances at work, and to fight against the use of an individual’s immigration status as a tool for oppression; third relates to health and safety, primarily to promote health and safety training to prevent injuries in the workplace; and the fourth focuses on personal development of work crew members to cultivate workers’ skill-sets, from knowledge of their fundamental rights to English language training and computer education.
This summer, Ana represented NWAWJC in a convening facilitated by BORDC’s GeorgeFriday which brought together many local allies interested in a campaign to address profiling and other abuses by local and state police. To aspiring activists interested in developing their own advocacy, she suggests a simple first step: seek information to learn more about the issues. BORDC’s People’s Blog for the Constitution offers one great source for such information on civil liberties issues.
Efforts to champion constitutional rights in America’s heartland — like those of Ana, Jose and their colleagues at the NWAWJC – offer an inspiring reminder of the vital role of immigrant communities in our nation’s history, and the transcendence of constitutional principles beyond political party, language, or culture. BORDC salutes Ana Aguayo & & Jose Luis Aguayo-Herrera for demonstrating, everyday, what it truly means to be American.