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Analysis Democracy: Rule of Law & Elections Economic Justice Financial Justice Immigration Organizing Social Justice

Watch: Forum on 2022 Elections and Meeting the Moment

Last Sunday, Voices for New Democracy hosted our latest monthly political forum discussing prospects for the upcoming 2022 elections with friend, contributor, and MIT professor Phil Thompson.

Following up on his recent writings in the New Labor Forum (‘Is Now the Time to Break with the Democrats?: A Debate‘ and ‘Democratizing the Knowledge Economy: Will Labor Accept the Challenge?‘), Thompson contends that today’s moment is the one the Left has been waiting for since the 1970s, and outlined some of the key (and sometimes contradictory) trends of today’s political moment:

  • The rise of the far-right, anti-democratic radicalization among the conservative movement
  • Right-wing attacks on immigrants, labor, climate, and other progressive priorities
  • Timid union leadership hesitant to seize power
  • Long-standing weaknesses and failures of the Democratic party
  • Resurgence of labor organizing among service sector workers and strong public support for unions
  • Left-wing radicalization among young people and certain legacy institutions
  • Progressive movements expanding and pushing local government to the left in strongholds like New York
  • The growth of the knowledge economy and the possibilities it presents for organizing and the role of consumers
  • And much more

Watch the full forum below.

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Analysis Democracy: Rule of Law & Elections Economic Justice Global Peace & Collaboration Social Justice

Webinar: Brazil Elections, What’s At Stake?

Brazil’s historic upcoming elections will pit the Worker’s Party’s Lula da Silva against the far-right former President Bolsonaro, and the results will shape the future of the country and global geopolitics.

To make sense of the challenge and understand the high stakes of the elections, the Brazilian progressive legal group Crivelli Advogados is hosting a webinar this Tuesday, October 11th from 7 – 9 pm EST with political analysts and a former Minister in Lula’s government to discuss and analyze the historical moment. Live English translation will be provided, and additional details can be found below.

Click here to register for the webinar.

Panelists will be Ricardo Berzoini, former Minister of Labour, Communications and Social Security during the Lula and Dilma governments, and Fabiano Santos,  political scientist, professor and researcher (IESP-UERJ). The mediation will be by Ericson Crivelli – Labor Law and International Rights specialist.

The polls on Sunday, Oct. 2nd, revealed a more conservative and radical Congress. The initial analysis of specialists shows that if Lula is elected – even with this Congress – there will be openness to dialogue, more possibilities for negotiation and a less adverse scenario.

But if Bolsonaro is reelected, there are risks of authoritarian advancement, reduction of social security, imposition of the conservative agenda, criminalization and even persecution of both social and workers’ movements.

So, how to organize to continue resisting? And how to advance on progressive agendas?

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Economic Justice Financial Justice Organizing Social Justice

Watch: Forum on the Future of American Socialism

Last Sunday, Voices for New Democracy hosted our latest monthly political forum with a wide-ranging discussion on the future of American socialism.

The extensive conversation covered key themes in contemporary American political economy and the state of class struggle today. Steve Clark kicked the forum off with a presentation on his latest essay, outlining several important currents in the trajectory of American politics and society, and offered interpretations of how these currents may shape opportunities to build socialism in the United States over the coming years. Thomas Blanton carried the conversation forward, discussing the importance of theory and building partnerships with diverse movements (especially those of oppressed peoples) in advancing a more progressive future. Eric Gill also discussed his perspective on the trajectory of the American left, class formation, modern imperialism, and the contradictions of contemporary capitalism amid the shift to a service economy, drawing on his own experience as a leader of the hotel workers union in Hawai’i. Finally, the forum shifted to an open dialogue drawing out key themes from these presentations.

Watch the full forum below.

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Economic Justice Organizing Social Justice

Watch: Monthly Political Forum on Labor and Reproductive Justice

In our latest monthly political forum, Jean Quan facilitated a discussion with Elise Bryant and Virginia Rodino of the Coalition of Labor Union Women on the role of women in the labor movement and the importance of centering reproductive justice in labor struggles.

Recounting their histories in the labor movement, the history of CLUW, and the evolving trends we’re seeing in the labor movement today, Elise and Virginia offered important reflections on why centering women and marginalized voices is key to strengthening the labor movement at large. And in the face of the right-wing attack to dismantle Roe v. Wade, they discussed how CLUW is launching new electoral efforts to build power at all levels of government to advance reproductive justice and worker power.

Watch the full forum below.

Categories
Analysis Social Justice

The Handmaid’s Tale is Reality

| Sherri Donovan |

I remember meeting Supreme Court Justice Brennan in his chambers at the Supreme Court when I was in law school. With his eyes sparkling brightly, he told me that it was letters from women around the country that inspired his vote and determination for Roe v. Wade. My late term abortion was traumatic enough when a hole in the stomach of the fetus was discovered. I can not imagine if I would have been forced to carry to full term only to give birth to a dead fetus. I am forever grateful to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vermont that assisted me with an early abortion. My friend Donna had an ectopic pregnancy and would have been dead if not for her abortion. My mother was forced to do a back alley dangerous abortion in Puerto Rico because abortion was not legal. My daughter is distraught that she and possible children in the future will have less rights than her mother and their grandmother.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will go down in history and herstory as a catastrophic Supreme Court decision. I was appalled that Alito, who writes for the majority compares overturning Plessy v. Ferguson which legalized race segregation to the Dobbs decision which overturns Roe v. Wade and permits the restriction of a woman’s rights to control her own body.

The Dobbs majority completely ignores the Women’s rights movement and advances over the last century and recent decades. It completely ignores that it is a matter of healthcare, life, liberty and privacy for women. The majority opinion refuses to recognize that the clear majority of the US population is in favor of pro-choice. More than two-thirds of Americans are in favor of retaining Roe. One quarter of American women will have an abortion before the age of 45.

The Supreme Court does not mention that this decision is out of step with the rest of the world.  Over the past several decades, more than 50 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas have liberalized their abortion laws. Latin American countries have more reproductive rights than the women in the USA. Only the United States, Poland and Nicaragua have reduced abortion access in the 21st century. Canada has decriminalized abortion at any point in a pregnancy. Most Western European countries impose restrictions on abortion after 12 to 14 weeks, but they often have liberal exceptions to those time limits, including to prevent harm to a woman’s physical or mental health.

The Court without unanimous support overturns precedent of two Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and more than twenty other cases reaffirming or applying the constitutional right to abortion. There is no change in law or fact that necessitated this drastic, action. As the dissent in Dobbs makes clear, “Casey is a precedent about precedent. It reviewed the same arguments made here in support of overruling Roe, and it found that doing so was not warranted.”

The Alito decision is stuck in the criminal earlier history of abortion. Women were chattel in this country and could not own property, vote or obtain a credit card or law license. How far back would these extreme right judges and appointees of Trump go?  The dissent points out that, “The majority makes this change based on the question: Did the reproductive right recognized in Roe and Casey exist in “1868, the year when the Fourteenth Amendment was Ratified? … Those responsible for the original Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, did not perceive women as equals, and did not recognize women’s rights. When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages), it consigns women to second class citizenship”. The dissent continues, “…our point is different: It is that applications of liberty and equality can evolve while remaining grounded in constitutional principles, constitutional history, and constitutional precedents. Roe and Casey fit neatly into a long line of decisions protecting from government intrusion a wealth of private choices about family matters, child rearing, intimate relationships, and procreation. … In the Fourteenth Amendment’s terms, it takes away her [a woman’s] liberty.  In conclusion, Kagan, Sotomayor and Breyer state “With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent.”

According to the majority of the US Supreme Court, guns have more rights than women over their bodies. The hypocrisy and blatant political nature of the Dobbs decision is clear. In their opinion June 23, 2022 forcing New York and other densely populated states to allow more handguns in public and causing more danger to the public, the conservative majority, led by Justice Clarence Thomas, argued that medieval law imposing arms restrictions – specifically, the 1328 Statute of Northampton – “has little bearing on the Second Amendment” because it was “enacted… more than 450 years before the ratification of the Constitution.” Yet in their ruling the next day, June 24, 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, setting women’s rights back half a century the conservative justices, led by Samuel Alito (who was also in the guns majority) and joined by Thomas, argued precisely the opposite. They justified abortion bans by citing, among others, “Henry de Bracton’s 13th-century treatise.” That was written circa 1250 and referred to monsters, duels, burning at the stake – and to women as property, “inferior” to men. The moral hypocrisy about helping families and children is noted when considering that, a state-by-state analysis by public health professionals shows that States with the most restrictive abortion policies also continue to invest the least in women’s and children’s health, as the Dobbs dissent exemplifies.

The dissent begins by stating, “For half a century, Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), have protected the liberty and equality of women. Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions… Today’s Court, that is, does not think there is anything of constitutional significance attached to a woman’s control of her body and the path of her life”.  The dissenting opinion written jointly by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elana Kagan and Stephen Breyer states that the Court is “rescinding an individual right in its entirety and conferring it on the State, an action the Court takes for the first time in history.” The Dobbs dissent points out that the majority’s brazen rejection of stare decisis, respect for precedent, “breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law.” The dissent said the majority’s refusal to address real world consequences “reveals how little it knows or cares about women’s lives or about the suffering its decision will cause.” The dissent raised questions about rape, incest, threats to a mother’s life, interstate travel for abortion, morning-after pills, IUDs, and in vitro fertilization. The dissent writes, “Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, “the views of [an individual State’s] citizens” will not matter … The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment,”

Even Chief Justice Roberts admonished fellow conservatives for cavalierly overturning the Roe v. Wade super-precedent. “Surely we should adhere closely to principles of judicial restraint here, where the broader path the court chooses entails repudiating a constitutional right we have not only previously recognized, but also expressly reaffirmed” Roberts wrote, The majority’s “dramatic and consequential ruling is unnecessary,” and “a serious jolt to the legal system”.

The concurrence of Clarence Thomas makes specific reference to overturning other well established precedents that rely on the 14th Amendment. He cites Griswald which concerns the right to use birth control; Lawrence v. Texas protecting consensual adult sex and Obergefell granting the right to same sex marriage. How peculiar he does not mention Loving v Virginia which relies on the same constitutional principles and protects interracial marriage. Justice Clarence Thomas’s separate concurrence made crystal clear that he would indeed do away with the entire substantive due-process doctrine on which the right to abortion rested. As the Justices Sotomayor, Kagan & Breyer sharply note in the dissent, “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.”

Pregnant women, health care providers, pharmacists, as well as possibly volunteers, family members, friends and anyone who has significant contact may be investigated, or arrested as suspect if a pregnancy does not end as a healthy birth. Surveillance will certainly increase.  Half the States will move to outlaw or restrict abortion. Will there be trials and investigations if a miscarriage is murder? In certain States, Women now risk criminal prosecution for ordering a day after pill. Health care providers will now have the dilemma of letting women die or suffer serious injury or risk loss of their license or a lawsuit if they perform an abortion. Poor, Black & women of color will be punished the most. Approximately fifty-two percent of women of child bearing age will face abortion restrictions.  During the past four years, eleven states have passed abortion bans that contain no exceptions for rape or incest.  In Texas, already, children aged nine, ten, and eleven, who don’t yet understand what sex and abuse are, face forced pregnancy and childbirth after being raped. States might also ban other reproductive practices, such as in vitro fertilization or the use of intrauterine devices.

What is to be done?

  1. Utilize your First Amendment right to protest.
  2. Join and support reproductive rights organizations and organizations assisting women in States that restrict abortion and other reproductive rights/ birth control options.
  3. Support electoral candidates that advocate for abortion rights.
  4. Get active in the mid-term elections.
  5. Advocate for the passage of federal legislation to codify Roe.
  6. Advocate for the immediate addition of judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial reforms.
  7. Learn and teach women how to protect their privacy to avoid unintentionally providing possible evidence to prosecutors who can get access to information through health care institutions and technological devices.  
  8. Utilize and share the following resources:
  9. If you need to find a clinic or help people find a clinic: https://www.ineedana.com/ 
Categories
Democracy: Rule of Law & Elections Economic Justice

Watch: May Day Forum with Gerry Hudson

On May Day 2022, Voices for New Democracy hosted SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Gerry Hudson for a discussion on the state of the American labor movement. Throughout the conversation, Gerry discussed his history at 1199SEIU, outlining how the union’s participation in struggles for racial justice and immigrant justice mobilized membership and helped secure important victories; how 1199’s emphasis on rank-and-file organizing and leadership was key to their strength; and what lessons these experiences hold for today’s wave of union organizing across gig workers, Amazon workers, delivery drivers, Starbucks workers, and more. Gerry also reflected on SEIU’s political mobilization around the 2020 elections — playing an important role in Biden’s victory — and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2022 and 2024.

Watch the full forum below.

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Democracy: Rule of Law & Elections

Watch: Forum on Progressive Electoral Organizing with Linda Burnham & Max Elbaum

This past Sunday, Voices for New Democracy joined our comrades at Convergence Magazine for a conversation with Linda Burnham and Max Elbaum around their new book, Power Concedes Nothing: How Grassroots Organizing Wins Elections, a collection of essays exploring grassroots mobilization as the key to electoral power. Burnham and Elbaum discussed their work with Convergence, pulled out key highlights from the book and examples of progressive organizing in action — including its pivotal role in ousting Trump — and emphasized the need for progressives to unify and work together to defend democracy while building grassroots power.

Watch the full conversation below.

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Economic Justice

Watch: Forum on Black Liberation with Robin D. G. Kelley

“There has never been a moment in the last 150 years on the planet that we did not have to rebuild the Left.”

Robin D. G. Kelley

On Sunday, January 23rd, UCLA Professor and acclaimed historian Robin D. G. Kelley joined Voices for New Democracy for our latest monthly political forum discussing the past and future of Black liberation.

The wide-ranging conversation touched on important reflections on where the Left stands today, and explores some of the lessons from historical experiences in the struggle for Black liberation from Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition to BLM, and the reactions and backlash these struggles have faced. Building on recent forums and essays on Voices for New Democracy exploring some of the recent challenges and defeats we’re facing, Kelley asserts that the present moment is still full of opportunity. But to seize the moment, Kelley challenges us to think deeply about how we can build a unified Left, inspired by new ideas, that operates with organized cooperation and accountability. And as capitalism undergoes new structural changes in the face of concurrent crises, the Left will have important opportunities to advance our movement in different places at different moments. Whatever dark moments lie ahead, Kelley reminds us to maintain our commitment to the struggle.

Watch the full forum below.

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Uncategorized

Comment on the Biden Administration’s Continued Support of Trump-Era Immigration Title 42 and Remain in Mexico Policies

| José Z. Calderón |

Biden could have broken with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and allowed anyone who wished to apply for asylum to be able to do so at a port of entry and increase the possibilities of immigrants from Central America and from places like Haiti to obtain lawful employment (through such measures as H-2B visas).

Instead, the Biden administration has kept in place a Trump-era policy, Title 42, which does the opposite by indefinitely closing the border to “nonessential travel” (to supposedly “limit the spread of the coronavirus”) and increases the deportation of those who are seeking work or who are seeking to apply for asylum. Title 42, under both the Trump administration and now under Biden, allows for the Border Patrol to decide who can enter the process of asylum and who cannot. As a result, in the last year, border authorities applied Title 42 to more than 80% of encounters with immigrants resulting in 530,000 expulsions of which 16,000 were children migrating alone and 34,000 children-plus parents. Adding to the number of expulsions, the Biden administration has moved on speeding up deportations of some migrant families through “expedited removal,” allowing for ICE to deport them without a hearing before an immigration judge.  

In this light, our organizing efforts, in addition to supporting DACA and Temporary Protective Status measures, has to include a halt to the contradictory government policies of Title 42 and a call for humane refugee asylum policies. 

Along these same lines, it is important to organize against the Biden administration’s reinstating of a Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, that is part of a deal struck with the Mexican government forcing asylum seekers to stay in that country until their U.S. immigration court date. Under this policy, about 70,000 immigrants have been returned to Mexico. Although the Biden administration justifies its actions by claiming that it is only following court orders, that it is applying “humanitarian speed-ups” of court proceedings of migrants and refugees, and that it is providing avenues for access to legal counsel, there is no getting around that the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policies are resulting in mass deportations and inhumane treatment. There are thousands of immigrants, seeking protection from increased violence in their home countries, who are being deported back to areas where they are met with brutal attacks and kidnappings perpetrated by deadly cartels and corrupt officials.  For instance, according to Human Rights First, there were at least 1,544 publicly documented cases of rape, kidnapping, assault, and other crimes committed against individuals sent back under these policies this last year. 

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris has been assigned to focus on the “root” causes of migration in Latin America, announcing that the plan will deal with issues of  economic insecurity and inequality, combating democratic corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. 

While some of us in the immigrant rights movement have promoted policies that would focus on changing the economic conditions in the sending countries that are forcing so many to migrate here, the reality is that they are meaningless in this time period when there is a need to prioritize the passage and implementation of pro-immigrant legislation here in the U. S.  These gestures by Kamala Harris, focused on the conditions abroad, affect very little in the immediate and, with the Republicans already making immigration a central issue, the prospects for building the kind of movement that is needed to ensure the defeat of the right in the mid-term elections is further damaged.

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Uncategorized

Movement Building is Essential to Advance Immigration Reform

| Kent Wong |

This article will appear in the next issue of the New Labor Forum.

Fundamentally, we need to build an immigrant rights movement to create the change we need.   Reliance on the Democratic Party or on policy formulations alone will never result in meaningful change unless we can successfully build a movement led by immigrant workers and immigrant youth.   

The Obama-Biden administration was responsible for more than two million deportations, the worst record in U.S. history.  During his 2020 presidential election campaign, Biden promised immigration reform within his first year in office.  Not only do those promises remain unfulfilled, but unfortunately, Biden has maintained some of the repressive anti-immigrant policies implemented by Trump.

We support the necessity of building a broad-based alliance to advance meaningful immigration reform.  The alliance must include undocumented immigrants themselves, the labor movement, African Americans, youth and students, environmentalists, and the faith-based community.  

While we obviously supported the Biden-Harris ticket, and celebrate the end of the horrific Trump administration, we should not be surprised about Biden’s lukewarm commitment to immigration reform in light of his track record.  The Biden administration will only do the right thing if there is a strong movement demanding change.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was one of the few immigrant rights victories that was won during the Obama-Biden administration.  DACA was a breakthrough in providing a relief to more than 800,000 immigrant youth who otherwise would still live under the constant fear of deportation and would not be able to legally work.  

The immigrant youth movement played a decisive role in securing one of the few immigration reform victories under the Obama-Biden administration.  Yet it is important to note that DACA was not prioritized or actively supported by major immigrant rights organizations.  Even the Federal DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) was not a priority of major immigrant rights organizations, because of their fear that if the DREAM Act moved forward as a stand-alone bill, this would undermine the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.  

We strongly disagree with this analysis and approach.  The one-sided push for comprehensive immigration reform and reliance on the Democratic Party has been a failed strategy, that has effectively yielded nothing. 

The right wing understands the benefit of incremental change on immigration.  They have tried to secure anti-immigration victories wherever and whenever possible, at a federal, state, and local level.  They have built an anti-immigrant movement grounded in racism and nativism, and have used the anti-immigrant issue to mobilize their primarily white constituency at the ballot box.

Instead of relying the Democratic Party, we believe that we must focus our energies on movement building.  And two major movements that have helped to shift the national debate on immigrant rights are the immigrant workers movement, and the immigrant youth movement.  We would benefit from deepening an understanding of the role of each, in order to confront the challenges ahead. 

Immigrant Workers Movement

The U.S. labor movement has a decidedly mixed history when it comes to immigration reform.  From their support of the passage of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, U.S. labor has historically embraced anti-immigrant policies.  During the last major immigration legislation passed by Congress, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, labor advocated for employer sanctions to impose civil and criminal penalties for employers who knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.  They erroneously believed that this would safeguard jobs for U.S.-born workers. 

Employer Sanctions has been a disaster that has done little to nothing to punish employers for hiring undocumented immigrants.  Instead, employer sanctions have caused great to harm to undocumented immigrants who been viciously exploited with little legal recourse, and driven further into the underground economy.  

The emergence of the immigrant workers movement was a powerful force that helped to reinvigorate parts of the U.S. labor movement, and harness the power of a new generation of predominantly Latino immigrant workers to transform parts of the labor movement.  In Los Angeles, the legendary Justice for Janitors Movement and the organizing of the Hotel Workers under the leadership of Maria Elena Durazo represented historic breakthroughs in not only immigrant worker organizing, but the embrace of social movement unionism.  The victory of the Home Care workers, led for years by black women, also greatly diversified the labor movement of California and brought more women, people of color, and low wage immigrant workers into the labor movement than any other organizing campaign in decades.

The national debate on the AFL-CIO policy on immigration came to a head during the 1999 convention held in Los Angeles.  On the opening day of the convention, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor organized a march within the convention hall with hundreds of recently organized immigrant workers of color.  The marchers jumped on to the podium where the largely aging, white male AFL-CIO Executive Council was seated, dramatically contrasting two distinct parts of the labor movement.  A remarkable change in the AFL-CIO immigration policy came the following year, in 2000, led by a progressive coalition of key unions including UNITE-HERE, SEIU, UFCW, and the United Farmworkers of America. For the first time, the AFL-CIO lined up on the right side of history on immigration, calling for full rights and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

In 2003, UNITE HERE launched the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride, a series of national bus tours that drew on the tradition of the Civil Rights movement.  In states and cities throughout the country, the Freedom Ride built union and community alliances with a movement-building orientation.  Congressman John Lewis and Rev. James Lawson Jr. worked with the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride to connect the emerging immigrant rights movement with veterans from the Civil Rights movement from decades before. 

In 2006, the largest May Day marches in U.S. history held in dozens of cities across the country were organized to respond to draconian anti-immigrant legislation in Congress.  It was a profound reflection of the power of the immigrant workers movement, that successfully led to the defeat of the pending legislation.  Ironically, the largest May Day in U.S. history was not led by the U.S. labor movement, but by immigrant workers themselves.  In fact, some conservative union leaders watched from the sidelines, refusing to support the just demands of immigrant workers to end deportations and for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

The election of Tefere Gebre as the AFL-CIO Executive Vice President in 2013 was a breakthrough.  For the first time in history, a black immigrant and political refugee became one of the top officers of the U.S. labor movement.  Gebre was previously the leader of the Orange County Federation of Labor, where he mobilized the power of immigrant workers to not only reinvigorate the labor movement, but to change the political landscape.   Orange County in 2016 voted for a Democrat for President for the first time since the 1930’s, and in 2018 Democrats swept the entire Congressional delegation in what was previously a bastion of right-wing politics.  

In 2021, Liz Schuler was elected as the first woman President in AFL-CIO history.  Currently, her two other national officers are black men, another historic first.  The first leadership team of women and people of color within the AFL-CIO could change the national political environment through building a grassroots movement to support immigration reform.  

Immigrant Youth Movement

Immigrant youth have been at the forefront of securing meaningful immigration policy victories over the last decade. Though immigrant youth have been organizing for a long time, the year 2010 was a game changer. 

In May of 2010, five undocumented youth held a nonviolent sit-in at the office of Senator and former presidential-candidate John McCain, risking arrest and deportation.  This courageous act exposed McCain’s political opportunism as a Senate leader who had previously co-sponsored the DREAM Act, yet instead withdrew his support to align with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  

In the coming months, immigrant youth engaged in unprecedented activism from hunger strikes in Los Angeles and Texas, a 1,500 mile march on-foot from Florida to Washington known as the “Trail of Dreams,” a “Dream Freedom Ride” caravan from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., and many other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience. The emergence of United We Dream, a national coalition of undocumented youth organizations, as well as “Dream Teams” of undocumented activists in states and cities across the country set the foundation for a new immigrant youth movement. 

For more than twenty years, the DREAM Act, overwhelmingly supported by the public, has been blocked in Congress.  The DREAM Act could provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying immigrant youth and could change their lives, as well as the lives of their families and their communities. Despite the tremendous efforts made by immigrant youth, the DREAM Act was unable to get through the Senate because of a threatened filibuster in December of 2010. This was a bipartisan failure.  A handful of Democrats voted against it, while some senators like John McCain and Joe Manchin, did not even show up to vote. As heartbreaking as this loss was, immigrant youth did not give up. Instead, they directed their attention to other efforts that could harness their energy and collective power.

The failure of the DREAM Act in December 2010, was the impetus for the launch of “Dream Summer” in 2011. Dream Summer is the first and only national fellowship program run by and for immigrant youth, launched by the UCLA Labor Center with support of United We Dream. The program aims to empower the next generation of social justice leaders by providing leadership and professional development opportunities to immigrant youth that embraces an intersectional, intergenerational, cross-racial approach. In its first year, the program received over 1,000 applications from eager immigrant youth that were ready to join the movement.  Since its founding, the Dream Resource Center (DRC) of the UCLA Labor Center has emerged as a national source for innovative research, education, leadership development and policy on immigration issues. 

Dream Summer centers the immigrant youth voice in local and national conversations that directly impact them in order to achieve representation, opportunity, and justice for immigrant communities. Over the past ten years, Dream Summer has played a pivotal role in developing immigrant youth leaders who have secured legislative victories such as the California Dream Act, DACA, and Health4AllKids in California. 

In 2011, immigrant youth organized actions across the state of California to secure the passage of the California Dream Act, which for the past decade has provided tens of thousands of immigrant youth access to state financial aid for eligible undocumented Californians. Between 2016 – 2017 alone, more than 54,000 California immigrant youth applied for the California Dream Act. 

Undocumented immigrant youth, many of them leaders of Dream Summer such as Neidi Dominguez and Ju Hong, were instrumental in advancing a national strategy to push President Obama to introduce Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012. Today, over 800,000 immigrant youth have been able to work and have protection from deportation as a result of this victory. 

In 2013, Dream Summer launched the Health Ambassadors Fellowship. The late Beatriz Solis from The California Endowment led the effort to support 114 immigrant youth to work at the intersections of health and immigration. The Dream Summer fellows produced a  series of reports entitled, Undocumented and Uninsured, which informed policymakers about the need for health care for all Californians, regardless of legal status. In 2015, California passed Health4All Kids, which expanded full-scope medical to low-income children under the age of 19, regardless of immigration status. Most recently, immigrant youth were also key in securing the passage of the California Values Act, which limits collaboration between law enforcement and immigration officials in the detention and deportation process.

2021 marked the 10th anniversary of Dream Summer. Since its inception, more than 820 immigrant youth from across the country have participated in the program. Dream Summer has also developed partnerships with over 265 social justice organizations. Many Dream Summer alumni have gone off to hold leadership positions in various national, state and local social justice organizations. Undocumented immigrant youth continue to be at the forefront of the fight for immigrant justice.

Movement building is essential to advance Immigration reform.  Unfortunately, some immigrant rights organizations speak on behalf of undocumented immigrants, while not promoting undocumented immigrants in key leadership positions. This is problematic, and has contributed to a failure to focus on movement building and a commitment to undocumented immigrant empowerment.  History teaches us that we must build the immigrant workers movement and the immigrant youth movement to secure meaningful immigration reform.