A legal workers’ union stands with immigrants

February 1, 2018

Legal services workers voted for their union to defend undocumented immigrants against the Trump administration's offensive, writes a union member.

LIKE MANY people who are undocumented, my ability to hold a job has only been secure after receiving a temporary work permit through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Barack Obama implemented through an executive action in 2013.

The Trump administration's repeal of DACA and other temporary legal status like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) hasn't just increased fears of deportation. For about 800,000 DACA recipients and more than 325,000 TPS recipients, it means deep uncertainty about our ability to work legally, and lift ourselves and our families out of poverty and marginalization.

For the first time in 16 years of living as an undocumented immigrant, and 10 years in the workforce (informally), I have been able to go back to school as a full-time student, sought physical and mental health services, and obtained a valid state ID. These aren't small victories for undocumented people, who are mostly relegated to second- or even third-class citizenship.

In my workplace, shop delegates and local union leaders have played a key role in making demands of my employer to protect my rights once DACA ends, and my work permit expires, and I am laid off or forced out due to lack of proper documentation.

Protesters take a stand to defend DACA from Trump's attacks
Protesters take a stand to defend DACA from Trump's attacks (Pax Ahimsa Gethen | Wikimedia Commons)

Unions around the country should make a priority of defending the hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers who are facing threats to their status.

At a recent national meeting of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers (NOLSW)/United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2320 that I attended as a representative, union members showed what it looked like to put the slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all" into action, with a resolution in support of DACA and TPS.

It passed with enthusiasm and no opposition, which speaks to rank-and-file union members' support for DREAMers and commitment to an issue that greatly affects our members and their clients.

The resolution, reprinted below, affirms the union's commitment to supporting self-identified DACA and TPS union members in regards to making workplace protection demands on their employers and in resisting deportation orders of our members.

Along with the resolution, we have also drafted model contract language to make demands on employers in support of DACA and TPS recipients who may lose their ability to work.

While we may not be able to stay on payroll once we lose our legal status, we hope to make sure that our employers won't cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without first notifying the union, and will not lay us off without providing severance packages and health insurance for months thereafter to ease the financial difficulties that losing our employment will cause.

Whether my workplace or others across the country will be able to win these demands from employers is not yet known, and it will take a lot of workplace organizing, but we are more likely to take rank-and-file action to that end now that we know the union will have our backs.

Resolution Supporting DACA, TPS and a Clean Dream Act

Whereas, President Obama took executive action to grant conditional and temporary status to 800,000 undocumented youth, granting them the right to work legally, by implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012,

Whereas, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides temporary legal status, including the ability to work legally, to approximately 325,000 TPS recipients across the country,

Whereas, 70 percent of immigrant families are mixed status, meaning there is at least one or more undocumented family members who may benefit from DACA or TPS,

Whereas, President Trump rescinded both DACA and TPS program, putting all recipients at risk of losing their ability to work and putting them at risk of deportation,

Whereas, more than one hundred undocumented people previously covered under DACA lose their status every single day,

Whereas, Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency using demeaning and inflammatory language, emboldening the political will for attacks on the immigrant community, and continues to do so with increasingly hostile rhetoric,

Whereas, the Trump administration has increased domestic enforcement, targeting immigrants with low-level criminal offenses or no criminal record at all, while ICE officers have targeted, detained and deported DACA and TPS recipients and activists despite assurance that they are targeting only those with criminal records,

Whereas, President Trump's decision to rescind these programs and increase enforcement, including workplace raids, has created a climate of fear for undocumented workers, families and their communities,

Whereas, there are currently approximately 800,000 DACA recipient and 325,000 TPS recipients, some of whom are employed in the legal service industry and may be members of NOLSW/UAW Local 2320, and who stand to lose their ability to work once their status is revoked, regardless of their work ethic or their contribution to Legal Services,

Whereas, union members across the country are willing to make workplace demands of their employer in support of their colleagues who are under attack,

Therefore be it resolved that, NOLSW/UAW Local 2320 will work to support and advocate for all union members who self-identify as DACA and TPS recipients, and who are either detained or put in removal proceedings, to receive legal and social services.

Be it further resolved that NOLSW/UAW Local 2320 will support union members who offer their time and energy in advocating for undocumented members that are directly impacted by anti-immigrant measures.

Be it further resolved that NOLSW/UAW Local 2320 will actively support organizing efforts and campaigns involving undocumented members who may stand to lose their ability to work and earn a living or are put in removal proceedings.

Be it further resolved that NOLSW/UAW Local 2320 will support contract language or memorandums of understanding in local union collective bargaining agreements that broadly support and protect the rights of DACA and TPS recipients at their places of employment.

Be it further resolved that NOLSW/ UAW Local 2320 will support local, state and national legislation to reinstate TPS, preserve DACA and pass a Clean Dream Act that does not include increased domestic or border enforcement.

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