In reaction to President Trump’s hateful rhetoric and damaging deportation policies targeting refugees, undocumented immigrants, and people of the Muslim faith, SEIU local 521 has fought back in multiple ways; we’ve lobbied our State politicians in support of immigrants’ rights, we’ve filed “friend of the Court” briefs in support of Santa Clara County’s federal lawsuit, we joined the Caravan Against Fear, and we’ve supported several immigrant rights efforts, with more on the horizon.
On Saturday, April 15, more than thirty SEIU 521 members convened at our union headquarters to learn about the rapidly shifting policies on immigration enforcement, how Sanctuary City policies affect public sector workers, and our legal rights during raids by Immigration and Customes Enforcement (ICE) officials.
The workshop was led by SEIU 521 Secretary and Santa Clara County Deputy Chapter Chair Mulissa Willette and began with a presentation and Q&A session with Conchita Lozano-Batista, Labor Attorney with Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld. Prior to joining Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, Conchita worked on migrant-worker rights and issues of corporate responsibility, on behalf of human rights advocates. Conchita’s comprehensive presentation covered “Preparing for and Responding to Increased Immigration Enforcement,” giving members the tools needed to handle potential immigration raids at home or in the workplace.
SEIU Local 1021 Researcher Peter Mancina, gave a detailed workshop on Sanctuary Policy – Peter completed his PhD on Sanctuary City Policy, titled “In the Spirit of Sanctuary: Sanctuary City Policy Advocacy and Production of Sanctuary City Power in San Francisco.” Did you know? Only Federal agents are responsible for enforcing immigration law; local police officers are responsible for enforcing criminal law, local courts are responsible for enforcing civil law, but no public sector workers are required to assist in immigration enforcement. Peter emphasized that Sanctuary Policies are “limited cooperation policies,” not “zero cooperation policies” – meaning that local law enforcement will cooperate with federal immigration agents under certain legal situations, but they will not go above and beyond that basic legal requirement.
Myth Buster: Many opponents of Sanctuary Policies claim that these communities provide a haven for undocumented criminals, but federal research proves otherwise: High rates of immigration are actually associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. Additionally, “sanctuary counties” average 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people compared to non-sanctuary counties. This holds true for immigrants who are documented and undocumented, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. The American Immigration Council noted in a 2015 study that the recent period of rising immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2013 also corresponded with plummeting crime rates across the country.
Our final presenter was Jeremy Barousse, a Community Organizer for the Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN). Jeremy shred several upcoming opportunities for immigration advocacy. For further resources, please visit Services Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) and iAmerica, SEIU’s immigration action team.
SEIU is the largest organization of immigrants in the United States, with over 400,000 immigrant members, and was founded by immigrants nearly 100 years ago. SEIU members—immigrants and native born alike—will be out in force on May 1 to show support for the immigrant families who contribute so much to our communities and our economy.
Myth #2: Most over-stayed visa holders are from Mexico.
Experts estimate that about 40% of undocumented immigrants came to the US legally but overstayed their visas. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the nation with the most visitors who failed to leave at the end of their authorized stay was Canada, followed by Mexico, Brazil, Germany and then Italy. (Department of Homeland Security, March 2017)
1 in 4 immigrants to the US come from Mexico, but more Mexicans are now leaving than coming to the US. And, more non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended at U.S. borders in fiscal year 2016, for the second time on record (2014 was the first time). The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined by more than 1 million since 2007 (Department of Homeland Security, March 2017)
Myth #3: Most undocumented immigrants are temporary migrants looking for work.
66% of our country’s undocumented immigrants are long-term residents; they have lived here for 10 years or more. (Department of Homeland Security, March 2017)
Myth #4: Undocumented Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
Immigrants who are undocumented pay taxes every time they buy taxable goods such as gas, clothes or new appliances (depending on where they reside). They also contribute to property taxes—a main source of school funding—when they buy or rent a house or apartment. A 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy highlights that undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.74 billion in state and local taxes a year. The U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2010 undocumented immigrants—and their employers—paid $13 billion in payroll taxes alone for benefits they will never get. They can receive schooling and emergency medical care but not welfare or food stamps. Under the 1996 welfare law, most government programs require proof of documentation, and even immigrants with documents cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years
Myth #5: Undocumented immigrants are taking jobs.
However, the U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, which accounts for only 5 percent of the entire workforce. Compared with their small share of the civilian workforce overall, immigrants without authorization are only overrepresented in service, farming and construction occupations (see Table 1). This may be due to the fact that, to fill the void of low-skilled U.S. workers, employers often hire undocumented immigrant workers. One of the consequences of this practice is that it is easier for unscrupulous employers to exploit this labor source, paying immigrants less, refusing to provide benefits and ignoring worker-safety laws. On an economic level, U.S. citizens benefit from relatively low prices on food and other goods produced by undocumented immigrant labor.