- Open borders advocate
- Former vice president of ISAIAH
Pablo Tapia was born in Mexico and subsequently lived in west Texas before moving in 1992 to Minnesota, where he soon began attending immigrant-rights marches in the Twin Cities area. Those rallies were aimed at helping illegal aliens benefit from what Tapia has described as “the rights that others enjoy as human beings.”
In the early 2000s, Tapia became vice president of the Minneapolis-based open-borders group ISAIAH. He also worked closely with the Gamaliel Foundation and the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition (IWFRC), on whose steering committee he sat in 2003.
In March 2002, Tapia spoke out in favor of allowing illegal aliens to open bank accounts, acquire driver’s licenses, and purchase auto insurance policies: “People without legitimate identification live in fear. Even if they’re victims of crime they are afraid to call the police. At least with a bank account you don’t have to carry a lot of cash around. But we must do more. Undocumented workers support about a billion dollars of Minnesota’s economy. It’s time for Minnesota to accept the official identification of the Mexican government and the Internal Revenue Service, so that immigrants can get a valid driver’s license and car insurance.”
On June 28, 2003, Tapia participated in a St. Paul, Minnesota demonstration — held jointly by ISAIAH and Centro Campesino — in support of expanded rights and amnesty for illegal aliens. “This country depends on our labor but denies our rights,” he said. “We [immigrants, legal and illegal] are the new dispossessed labor force, and this is the next stage in the civil rights movement.”
In July 2003 in Saint Paul, Tapia joined dozens of fellow activists at an IWFRC event pushing for “a new immigration policy” that would include “legalized status and a ‘road to citizenship’ for all immigrant workers in this country”; “the right of workers to re-unite their families”; and “protection of immigrants’ workplace rights” (i.e., the elimination of government raids). “The fight for the rights of immigrants is a fight for all working and oppressed people,” said Tapia.
In March 2005, Tapia held a crucifix aloft as he led a procession of 25 ISAIAH demonstrators in front of the General Mills corporate headquarters in Golden Valley, Minnesota, to protest the recent firing of 18 illegal aliens who had been employed unlawfully by Aramark, a company under contract to clean offices at General Mills. The illegals, who were members of Service Employees International Union Local 26, had been terminated after Aramark discovered that their Social Security Numbers were fraudulent.
In 2006, Tapia co-founded an organization called Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Assembly of Civil Rights) to build local and statewide immigrant-justice campaigns around a wide range of issues including driver cards, housing, voter rights, and fair labor practices.
Lamenting that racism was a common trait among his white neighbors in Minnesota, Tapia said in 2006: “People think I came from the border a week ago. It’s a cultural clash. We aren’t the same color, that’s what’s wrong.” “We′re not coming here [to America] to steal anything,” he added. “We’re coming to contribute.” Alleging also that federal immigration officials were now quicker to deport illegals than they had been in decades past, Tapia stated: “If I don’t do anything about this situation, my kids will pay later.”
Tapia has long supported legislation popularly known as the DREAM Act, which seeks to: (a) lay out a path-to-citizenship for illegal aliens who initially came to the U.S. as minors, and (b) allow those same illegals to attend college at the reduced tuition rates normally reserved for in-state legal residents. Impugning Minnesota legislators for having failed to pass a state version of the DREAM Act into law, Tapia in June 2007 explained that as a result of that failure, many talented young immigrants would be unable to become entrepreneurs, political scientists, or researchers who might otherwise have contributed great things to society. A decade later, Tapia was still lobbying passionately on behalf of the DREAM Act: “The beauty of the Dreamers is they grew up here,” he said in September 2017. “They know the political structure, the language and the culture.”
Tapia currently chairs the Gamaliel Foundation’s “Civil Rights for Immigrants” campaign, a national initiative which he has nicknamed “A Dream for All.“ In that role, Tapia has been instrumental in organizing immigration-reform trainings, direct actions, and “Dream for All” bus tours across key battleground states and in Washington, D.C.
In early 2019, the Marguerite Casey Foundation asked Gamaliel to nominate a number of “heroes” who merited public acclaim — in the form of a “Cesar Chavez Award” — for their efforts at “strengthening their communities through organizing and leading movements for a more just and equitable society.” Tapia was one of Gamaliel’s nominees.
Further Reading: “Immigrants Fighting to Stay” (News South, April 2006, re: Tapia’s birthplace and his 2006 quotes about racism, a “cultural clash,” etc.); “Advocates for Immigration Reform in Minnesota Look to Add a Personal Touch” (MinnPost.com, 8-29-2013, re: Tapia’s “the rights that others enjoy as human beings” quote); “The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Will Advocate for Immigrant Policy Reform” (BusinessWire.com, 7-15-2003); “Campaign Targets Aramark for Firing Immigrant Workers” (WorkdayMinnesota.org, 3-15-2005); “Education Costly for Illegal Immigrants” (ThreeSixty.StThomas.edu, June 2007); “DACA’s Demise Kick-Starts Intense Push to Help Minnesota’s Dreamers, Shape New Law” (StarTribune.com, 9-11-2017); “Congratulations to Cesar Chavez 2019 Honoree Pablo Tapia” (Gamaliel.org, March 2019).
- Tapia would echo this very same refrain many times in subsequent years. In early September 2013, for instance, he and approximately 40 fellow activists embarked on an 11-city, four-day tour through Midwest “battleground states” in hopes of pressuring key members of Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. “This country depends on our labor but denies our rights,” said Tapia. “We are the new dispossessed labor force, and this is the next stage in the civil rights movement.”