Stand Up for the Rights of Immigrant Workers

Immigrants helped build this country and continue to play a central role in our union. Since its inception UE’s aim has been to fight for all worker rights, regardless of status. 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.

While the U.S. has for decades had policies which were harsh and retributive against immigrants, under former President Donald Trump there was a concerted effort to punish asylum seekers and new immigrants through twisted, illegal, and immoral policies.  Nearly every aspect of immigration policy was redesigned in an explicit effort to reduce the number of non-white people in the U.S., from placing new arrivals into literal concentration camps to turning immigration judicial proceedings into kangaroo courts where individuals have no hope of prevailing.  

Proponents of immigration reform — including UE — had some guarded hope with the inauguration of President Joe Biden.  The odds of comprehensive immigration reform are long, and so we must rely upon executive action.  Biden’s record here, rather than his rhetoric, has been disappointing, and at times appalling. In the two and a half years of his presidency, Biden has failed to dismantle many of the Trump-era policies penalizing asylum seekers and green card holders.  Indeed, his administration defends them in court.  Biden continued and expanded Title 42, an archaic public-health order which allows the expulsion of most adult migrants without access to the asylum process, purportedly due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, although cases were much lower in the countries of origin for most of these migrants. 

Now that Title 42 has expired, Biden has reinstituted Title 8. While Title 8 has more pathways to asylum, it can be just as burdensome as Title 42. For example, Title 8 is more punitive for those caught crossing the border. The current situation is untenable, shelters and detention centers are at capacity, with it being reported that there are shelters who turn away at least ten families with children everyday. Those seeking an interview for asylum are forced to use an app called CBP One, which immediately excludes asylum seekers with older cellphones or without cellphones at all. Other problems with this app include facial recognition biases for those with darker skin, giving applicants appointments thousands of miles away, and separating families by giving them different appointments.

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 in 2015 by the National Labor Relations Board after the evidence showed his employer El Super grossly violated the union rights of Rodriguez and his coworkers. 

Those in power use the threat of deportation to scare immigrant workers. Florida’s Senate Bill 1718 requires employers to use The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) E-Verify program, which by SSA’s own admission contains 17 million errors. The E- Verify program is an online program which checks employees’ I-9 form information with records in the U.S Department of Homeland Security and the SSA. This bill fines employers $1,000 a day for failing to report, and license revocations for employing people without legal status. The E-Verify system has a long history of issues, and a 2020 estimate suggested that 760,000 workers with legal documentation have been negatively impacted since 2006 by E-Verify. Who knows the countless that will be affected by SB 1718?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents use heavy-handed raids to terrorize communities and workplaces. 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. Some have been forced to self-imprison in sanctuaries, like churches, in order to avoid deportation actions. They may go for years without seeing outside the walls which confine them. 

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.


  1. Demands 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. Supports the inclusion of immigrants in all current and proposed public healthcare programs, including Medicare for All; 
  5. Calls for the Biden administration to expand access to asylum interview appointments;
  6. 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;
  7. 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;
  8. Encourages locals to work with and financially support local immigrant rights coalitions which assist undocumented workers and fight to fix our broken immigration system;
  9. 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;
  10. 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;
  11. Calls on the state of Florida to repeal SB 1718; 
  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.