Over the last decade, thousands of families experienced the devastation of the raids, with an ever-increasing number occurring under the previous administrations, leaving some towns nearly abandoned and economically destroyed. This memo is a victory, and the first step in a series of administrative changes President Biden can take to expand protections for all workers -- regardless of immigration status.
We know the administration arrived at these changes because of the courage of immigrant workers who spoke out and their determination to seek justice in the workplace. We at Unemployed Workers United (UWU) are grateful to these workers and will continue to organize with them. We applaud the administration for taking the first step, but there is more work to be done.
DHS has less than 40 days to deliver the fine print of this new policy. The following two months will be critical for us. Immigrant workers need to be protected from their employers weaponizing their immigration status against them when they assert their rights. This memo is good for both immigrants and U.S.-born workers because workers will not be easily divided by the bosses when they take collective action and fight for better working conditions. Together we are stronger. We will be working with local labor organizations to ensure that the new guidelines spell out a process where immigrant workers can seek immigration protections at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before their employers retaliate against them for demanding better working conditions.
Immigrant workers have a long history in the United States of fighting for better working conditions, organizing for all workers’ rights, and building worker power across this country. All workers deserve dignity, respect, and equitable opportunity to assert their First Amendment and labor rights regardless of immigration status. These are values we believe create the world we all deserve to live in, a world where all workers’ rights are respected and protected.
The massive U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids we have witnessed over the years are a harrowing example of workers stripped of their power and dignity from institutions that rely on exploitative practices to increase profits. DHS can challenge this system with its upcoming regulations. These regulations must be available to all workers and protect immigrant workers when they stand up against employers to demand better conditions. ICE cannot continue to work as a rogue agency with no accountability. Some of the policies included in this memo have already existed. However, they were vague, and the DHS was not firm enough on the implementation. We hope this moment brings a more structured approach to protect workers truly.
The DHS memo is also part of a more significant opportunity and duty. The Biden-Harris administration has to uplift every worker in the country. UWU, a founding member organization of the Better For All coalition composed of local and national partners, is fighting to end deportation for organizing immigrant workers and equitable access for Black workers, workers of color, and women. We must connect the struggle of all workers, especially those systematically disenfranchised from good-paying jobs and a dignified living.
Black and Brown workers must work together to have equal opportunity to resist systemic oppression and exploitation. For far too long, bosses have pinned us against each other to the benefit of their own pockets. Enough is enough. We’re here to build a better future for all of us - for our families and communities!