Resistance and Resilience: Immigration Justice Framework

June 10, 2024
Posted in Uncategorized

Appendix to SEIU Convention 2024 Resolution #102a

Immigrant workers are powerful leaders in our union and integral to the care and service workforces in this country. Immigrant families should be welcome, safe, and free in America. Workers of every race and immigration status, in every state, keep this country fed, clean, safe, and healthy. As workers, we all want the same things: safety and security for our families, the opportunity for a decent life, and a better future for our children.

At SEIU, our vision for immigration justice means comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to U.S. citizenship for 11 million people; a clear voice for immigrants in our democracy; and the ability for immigrant workers to build and hold power in unions. Winning Unions for All means winning for and with immigrant workers. 

A Path to Citizenship is Our North Star 

We are recommitting to our Immigration Justice North Star and our determination to win a pathway to citizenship for 11 million American immigrants. For two decades, SEIU’s members have fought to win immigration reform. We will continue on this course so that millions of people – our family, friends, and coworkers – who live, work, and contribute to our communities can live in hope, not fear. Everyone who lives in America must have a voice in our shared future, with clear voting rights. Our immigrant neighbors must share in the prosperity they help build, and immigration status or race must not be used to exploit people. 

There are three critical components of our Immigration Justice Framework: to demonstrate the power and essential role of immigrants throughout the economy; to fight at the intersection of racial and economic justice; and to build political power NOW and long term

Our Immigration Justice Framework reaffirms our long-term goal and also marks key shifts in our work at SEIU now. 

  • We will move from a defensive position to offense demanding recognition for the fullness of immigrants’ lives. Lifting up immigrants solely in the context of federal immigration policy is insufficient to win. Immigrant voices and priorities will be in all of SEIU’s campaigns, from organizing to contract campaigns to legislative efforts. Committing to this strategy not only builds immigrant power, but also offers a positive opportunity for our activists to win in the face of inaction in Washington. 
  • We will move the story from the crisis and chaos at the border to the shared hopes and dreams of immigrants within our borders that drive our demand for citizenship. We will champion the 11 million American immigrants living here, tell stories of those workers leading our movement, and equip SEIU’s national and local leaders and members to be spokespeople and storytellers about the value of immigrants in our economy and democracy. 

We Must Show Our Power Now and Build More Power to Achieve Our Vision 

Throughout our country’s history, the wealthy and powerful have used race to divide us, building inequity into America’s economy and democracy. Today, these fundamental systems are fueled by unchecked corporate power and greed. They are designed to produce staggering income and wealth inequality while dividing workers by race and scapegoating immigrants and people of color. 

We have come close to winning citizenship several times – coming closest 10 years ago when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress. We experienced massive attacks and setbacks during the Trump presidency, adding to the devastating losses of the pandemic. Now, we are up against a massive right-wing machine that continues to use racist attacks to scapegoat immigrants and shape the media narrative by weaponizing political chaos and the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border and by demonizing those already living here. 

At a moment in time when our democracy is under attack by voter suppression and systemic racism, the fight for immigrant justice is at the intersection of expanding our democracy and the fight for racial justice: we must lean in forcefully on the demand for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants. Beyond SEIU, movement leaders and activists recognize the current limits of federal policy change on immigration. Our union cannot meet our full potential to build and hold power with workers if so many of those workers are forced to live in the shadows. We must show our current power with electeds, demand action, and elect/develop champions to build greater political and narrative power at the federal level to win citizenship for millions. 

Components of Our Immigration Justice Framework 

It is time for us to flex our power and build the power we need to win. We have to be clear-eyed about what’s ahead of us. We are fighting for a just, inclusive society. We are building an anti-racist union and labor movement. We are carrying hope for ourselves, our families, and all the people we love. But corporations don’t want to give up control, politicians don’t want to be accountable for solutions, and too many people want to hold onto outdated, racist beliefs, even if doing that hurts them, too. SEIU must bring our unique contribution to bear: worker power and a multiracial worker voice to strengthen our movement in service of our Immigration Justice North Star. We will: 

1. Demonstrate the Power and Essential Role of Immigrants Throughout the Economy 

Immigrants are – and have always been – essential workers. Immigrant workers, including those who are undocumented, add to the tax base, contribute to social security, and fuel billions of dollars of economic growth each year. Their hard work creates new jobs and opens small businesses. But our country has historically failed to honor the role of immigrant workers, intentionally excluding farm and domestic workers from certain labor protections. 

We recognize the fundamental role immigrants play in our economy and the important jobs they do in every sector. We will drive a narrative shift that champions the 11 million immigrants in America whose work is essential to service and care jobs, as well as every part of the economy. Immigrant workers share concerns – and hopes – with all workers across race and place, so we will champion shared worker stories 

2. Fight at the Intersection of Racial Justice and Immigration Justice 

As a multiracial organization, SEIU is well-positioned to draw the connection between racial and immigration justice. We will highlight the way the far right pushes divisions among communities – especially between Black and immigrant communities – in order to divide us. And, we will demonstrate the interests shared by immigrant and non-immigrant workers across communities to build power together. 

Unchecked corporate power worsens the inequities facing Black workers and immigrant workers across nationalities. SEIU’s comprehensive race-class analysis will drive our vision for our shared justice fights. We will link our fights for racial, immigrant, economic, healthcare, and climate justice as part of our drive to win Unions for All. 

3. Build Political Power NOW, Show the Power of Changing Demographics, and Join Forces with More Partners 

As we lead our 2024 political process we need a strategic approach to win. Immigrant justice must be central to our issue agenda, candidate endorsements, voter persuasion, and GO1V efforts. 

The nation’s changing demographics, with younger communities of color growing in many states, mixed-status families, and newly naturalized Americans, offer us an opportunity to build more elected champions for immigration reform. As part of our union’s political program, we will strengthen our civic engagement work with immigrant communities. 

We will move forward at the state and federal levels with every opportunity to build strength. We need to demand executive action on issues like TPS and contest any efforts to further criminalize or detain immigrants. Our union and our partners have had great success winning at the state and local levels on driver’s licenses and access to benefits. We need to use our local and state power to win voting rights for immigrants in local and state elections, expanding our democracy at every opportunity until we win comprehensive voting rights for all. 

Immigration Justice is Central to Our Union 

SEIU’s members are immigrants or have immigrants as coworkers, family, friends, and neighbors. And when we come together – two million service, care, and public services workers – we can create transformational change. We will ensure SEIU members own and drive our vision and our strategy to win as we identify new activists and storytellers inside of our union to help lead the long-term fight for immigration justice. Our current coalition is too narrow: immigrant-only groups will never have the power alone to win our North Star. Our table must draw in more unions, racial justice allies, and other movement forces that exert power on a greater scale. And, we must create proof points of immigrant justice campaigns winning. 

We are ready to meet the moment and grow a stronger, more vibrant movement for immigration justice. By tapping into SEIU’s member strength, building our narrative, growing our coalition, and taking every opportunity to win for immigrant workers and our communities, we will continue on our course to win our Immigration Justice North Star. Our union, our communities, and our democracy are stronger with the contributions of immigrant workers.

In 2024 and beyond, we are clear that winning Unions for All means winning a pathway to U.S. citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform.