Stand Up for the Rights of Immigrant Workers: Defeat Trump’s Agenda of Hate!

Immigrants helped build this country and have played a central role in our union since its inception. Employers and the politicians that represent them seek to exploit divisions between immigrant and native-born workers, driving down wages and stripping away hard-won workers’ rights.

The Supreme Court’s Hoffman Plastic Compounds ruling in March 2002 decreed that immigrant workers fired for organizing a union are not entitled to back pay or reinstatement. The court effectively decided that immigrant workers “have no rights that bosses need respect.” Employers now routinely use the Hoffman ruling to fire union activists. But there are examples where immigrant workers have stood up for their rights and have won. Fermin Rodriguez, an undocumented worker fired for his union activity in Los Angeles, was reinstated by the National Labor Relations Board after the evidence showed his employer El Super grossly violated the union rights of Rodriguez and his coworkers. 

Employers use the threat of deportation to scare immigrant workers during organizing drives. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has resumed sending out ‘no-match’ letters which are based on an error-filled database and result in employers improperly firing large numbers of workers. The E-Verify program similarly denies employment to many documented workers because the database, by SSA’s own admission, contains 17 million errors. SSA should be administering retirement benefits, not enforcing immigration laws. I-9 audits can result in the quick discharge of workers with no recourse available to the union.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents use heavy-handed raids to terrorize communities and workplaces. The ICE workplace raids on August 7, 2019 in Mississippi tore apart families and communities, with many children left stranded at school with both parents detained and over ten percent of the population of one town was either arrested or fired. A study by the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law showed that in 86 percent of ICE cases in Long Island, agents illegally entered people’s homes, used excessive force, threatened unarmed people with weapons, and arrested many legal residents and U.S. citizens. 

Following workplace raids, children who are U.S. citizens remain in the country while parents are jailed and then deported. Our immigration detention system unnecessarily locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year, exposing detainees to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers. Since the inception of the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws, immigrant communities have been driven further into the shadows. 

Trump is purposefully enacting policies which punish asylum seekers and new immigrants in a twisted, illegal and immoral attempt to deter further migration from war-torn and violent nations. New arrivals are being put in immigrant detention centers that are literal concentration camps. Immigrant children are being taken from their parents and put in cages which is a clear violation of international human rights law. To add insult to injury, many of the asylum seekers are fleeing conditions caused by U.S. foreign and military policy.

Trump's attacks on immigrants serve two purposes. One is to bolster his electoral prospects by pandering to outright racists and others who have been manipulated into blaming their diminishing economic prospects on immigrants. It also benefits many employers, including Trump himself at his many golf courses and hotels, by creating a permanent underclass of workers who are too terrified to stand up for their rights on the job.

Denying immigrant workers decent wages and conditions undermines the wages and conditions of all. All workers, regardless of immigration status, must have the right to form unions, to file complaints against unfair treatment without fear of reprisal, to receive unemployment, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, and to have access for themselves and their families to affordable housing, healthcare, education and transportation.

Attacks on immigrants merit strong resistance by members of our union. UE must work with other unions, faith, and community groups to fight collectively for legalization and against anti-immigrant laws and sentiment.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 76th UE CONVENTION: 

  1. Demands an end to the separation of immigrant families, an end to all concentration and/or internment camps for immigrants, and an end to the criminalization of asylum seekers, refugees and those who provide humanitarian aid to them; 
  2. Demands the federal government impose an immediate moratorium on all ICE raids, arrests, deportations, harassment, seizures, I-9 audits, Secure Communities, the 287(g) and E-Verify programs, and other abuses of undocumented workers;
  3. Calls for an end to all political attacks against the sanctuary city movement and encourages all locals to actively support all efforts in their community to defend immigrants from abuse and harassment;
  4. Demands the federal government end their VOICE program, which serves the sole purpose of stirring up anti-immigrant racism, repeal the anti-immigrant so-called “Kate’s Law,” and end all travel bans;
  5. Calls for an immediate end to all construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico;
  6. Supports the inclusion of immigrants in all current and proposed public healthcare programs, including Medicare for All; 
  7. Demands that Congress enact immigration reform legislation that:
    1. Includes a legalization program, allowing all immigrants currently living in the U.S. to remain here permanently and without penalty;
    2. Protects worker rights for both current and future immigrants, including overturning the Hoffman Plastics decision;
    3. Prioritizes family unification;
    4. Liberalizes political asylum procedures;
    5. Rejects guest-worker programs;
    6. Repeals the REAL ID Act;
    7. Ensures immigrants have equal access to higher education, including student loans, financial aid, and in-state tuition;
  8. Urges locals to negotiate contract language that:
    1. Protects jobs and contract rights regardless of immigration status;
    2. Allows undocumented workers to update immigration status without loss of rights;
    3. Prevents the employer from taking adverse action in the event of the receipt of a Social Security “no-match” letter;
    4. Prevents the employer from participating in voluntary ICE enforcement programs;
    5. Obligates the employer to refuse entry to ICE agents who do not possess a valid warrant and to notify the union if contacted by ICE;
    6. Requires the employer to supply an independent translator and allow union representation when communicating on important matters with workers not fluent in English;
    7. Makes available copies of the contract in each language spoken by employees;
  9. Encourages locals to work with and financially support local immigrant rights coalitions which assist undocumented workers and fight to fix our broken immigration system;
  10. Calls on locals with immigrant members to educate employers on the rights of immigrant workers, the employer’s right to resist ICE harassment and intimidation, and the perils of ICE’s voluntary enforcement initiatives;
  11. Urges locals to educate themselves about federal laws related to immigrants and refugees, and to assist their immigrant members in attaining documented status and citizenship if they so desire;
  12. Demands that state motor vehicle agencies change policies and programs that make it impossible for immigrants to legally own and operate vehicles;
  13. Calls upon the union at all levels to continue to provide education and materials for members and the community about the real causes of worker migration to the U.S.