“We . . . are composed of all creeds, colors and nationalities, and do not allow anyone to use any prejudice in the organization against each other … ”
More than one hundred years ago Chicago’s flat janitors—immigrants and African Americans together—dared to make the impossible possible and take on Chicago’s wealthy building owners. They shoveled coal, mopped and cleared away rubbish in the city’s teeming apartment buildings. Frequently, their wives and children were expected to work alongside them. Still, they were paid so little that janitors had to service several buildings just to feed their families. Finally, they had enough. They went on strike, taking on the industry as a whole—and from this act of courage and faith the worker organization that would become SEIU Local 1 was born.
Our commitment to immigrant justice is long-held and deep. It is a part of our culture and who we are. Throughout history, we have witnessed politicians and employers use immigrants as scapegoats, and we’ve seen them whip up hate and fear to divide people. We have seen immigrants fall prey to unscrupulous employers even as they fought back against dangerous working conditions and unsafe streets. And we’ve seen courage and bravery as immigrants faced their fear and stood up to fight for justice.
Throughout our history immigrants’ hard work has helped our countries grow—from building the transcontinental railway to building our cities and working the land.
Our future is once again tied to the struggle for immigrant workers and their citizen children. Today 11 million undocumented immigrants work and live in the United States. They harvest the food we eat and work in our hospitals caring for the sick. They work in our homes caring for our elderly and our children, in our schools, our restaurants, our laundries and shops.
Our current immigration system is broken. We live in a world where millions of families live in fear of being torn apart by deportation, where working people are vulnerable to unscrupulous employers, where the government often fails to treat immigrants in a manner that is consistent with our national values, and where legal status separates millions of immigrants from the broader community.
Immigration reform is a personal issue for our members and their families. Our immigrant members come from all over the world—from Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, from Africa and the Caribbean and from countries all over Asia.
Immigration is also a pressing issue for our nation as a whole because it touches every aspect of our lives and our future as a nation. Immigration reform, once won, will bolster our economy and raise wages for all working people by bringing immigrants out of the shadows and allowing them to fully participate in our economy. It will also make our nation a better place to live by leveling the playing field and promoting equality, fair treatment, the rule of law and national unity.
Winning immigration reform with a path to citizenship also sets us up to win economic and racial justice on a broader scale. Demographic shifts have increased the size and political and economic importance of immigrant communities. Those shifts are expected to accelerate in the future supercharging the power of all working people in our shared fight for economic and racial justice for all.
Therefore be it resolved that:
SEIU will follow a strategy built around four central planks: building momentum for federal legislation, driving pro-immigration policy victories at the state and local level, making the threat real behind the rising Latino, AAPI and immigrant electorate, and building public support for reform.
We Will Build Momentum for Federal Legislation by:
- Working to elect champions who will prioritize immigrant and racial justice and enact commonsense immigration reform.
- Building pressure inside the Republican Party to pass immigration reform by lifting up the choice Republicans face between harsh and divisive policies—“building walls”—and measures such as commonsense immigration reform with a path to citizenship that will bring us together as a nation. As part of this strategy, we must build strength in states and congressional districts where immigration can affect the outcomes.
- Using our power to win victories now that concretely improve immigrants’ lives and benefit all working people. That means promoting fair treatment of immigrants and their families and thwarting anti-immigrant measures Specifically, in addition to the ongoing struggle for commonsense immigration reform SEIU will continue to fight to ensure that:
- Executive relief is protected from congressional attacks and is fully and generously implemented to the maximum extent possible under the law;
- Immigration enforcement is conducted in a manner that raises—not undermines—wages and working conditions, and comports with core American values;
- Immigration policies protect U.S. and immigrant workers and keeps families together, including LGBTQ immigrant families; and
- Immigrants, to the same degree as others, are able to obtain the assistance and services their own tax dollars support—and that in the end benefit us all.
Build Momentum and Drive Pro-Immigration Policy Victories at the State and Local Level by:
- Investing in state and local legislative, organizing and policy fights to win concrete improvements for immigrant communities; prevent anti-immigrant setbacks; develop pro-immigrant leaders and local infrastructure; build momentum for immigration reform at the federal level; and shape the national debate and narrative around immigration reform.
Demonstrate the Strategic Power Behind the Rising Latino, API and Immigrant Electorate by
- Showing the power of the Latino and AAPI, African and Caribbean vote through the 2016 elections and illustrating voter opposition to anti-immigrant candidates in the general election.
- Expanding the Latino and AAPI, African and Caribbean vote by engaging our members and allies in a broad and deep year-round civic engagement program to reach under-represented voters—youth, legal permanent residents, and unregistered voters; use innovations in technology and social media; and build close partnerships with mayors, churches, school boards, teachers unions and universities.
- Engaging Latino and AAPI, African and Caribbean Millennial voters around immigrant, economic, climate and racial justice issues to maximize the power of the vote.
- Using our 2016 electoral work in the Latino and AAPI community to build a base for iAmerica.
- Building iAmerica into a Latino, AAPI and immigrant organization that can attract, activate and mobilize the community around immigrant, racial and economic and climate justice.
Shaping Public Debate to Win Public Support for Reform
- Position immigration as a popular winning issue by telling the stories of our immigrant members; lifting up federal, state and local electoral and legislative battles and victories; putting a spotlight on communities where changing demographics and immigrant electoral engagement is changing outcomes; countering the anti-immigrant “us vs. them” frame; and otherwise driving a pro-immigrant narrative at the national, state and local levels.