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Immigrant Rights

Maryland Lawmakers Threaten Leading Immigrant Advocacy Group

The retribution from state lawmakers was swift and severe after Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA de Maryland, posted a tweet and statement on November 6, calling out Israel’s “terror” against Gaza and urging a ceasefire. Outrage and threats rained down from donors and politicians against the largest immigrant rights group in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Deeply alarmed, CASA took down the post the same day. In its place, a terse apology was posted acknowledging the “hurt” caused to “our dear and trusted partners” and promising a “new statement in the days to come.” That wasn’t apology enough for nine state senators, the entire delegation from Montgomery County (Maryland’s most prosperous and populous).

Construction Companies Exploit Agricultural Visas To Underpay Workers

Jose Ageo Luna Vanegas first worked for Signet Builders in the early 2000s. Hired on a temporary labor visa, he traveled from Mexico to U.S. job sites. The hours were long, but he was paid overtime. Years later, around 2017, Signet hired him again. This time, he received no overtime pay. That’s when he ​“started asking questions,” his attorney, Jennifer Zimmermann, said.  The work was largely the same. His visa was different. Originally, Luna Vanegas was hired on an H-2B visa. Various industries use the visas to fill labor shortages. A hotel facing a busy summer might hire foreign maids, for instance. But, when Signet hired him for his second stint with the company, he was on an H-2A visa. It’s reserved for agriculture work.

Biden Just Helped Overrule An ICE Detention Ban In New Jersey

Immigrant rights activists in New Jersey are facing a challenge. August 31 was supposed to be the day that the state’s last remaining Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center finally closed. Instead, CoreCivic — the private prison company that runs the center — sued to keep the center open, and President Biden publicly came out on CoreCivic’s side. On August 29, two days before CoreCivic’s contract was set to expire, a federal judge ruled to keep the center open. The immigrant rights movement has not taken this development passively. Leading up to the ruling, various organizations and activists in the state mobilized to defend our immigrant neighbors and our right to ban ICE detention centers.

Protests Erupt Across Florida As Senate Bill 1718 Goes Into Effect

Across Florida, protests are taking place to mark the beginning of an immigrant labor stoppage that is scheduled to last until at least July 3rd. Large crowds are being reported in Orlando, Tampa, and various areas in South Florida and as far away as Chicago and California. As SB 1718 goes into effect, the anger and economic concerns felt by many across the state forced Republican legislators to backpedal earlier this week. (See more about the new law in our last report.) Despite spin from elected state officials claiming the law “has no teeth,” thousands of undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families have already fled the state, leaving job sites and agricultural fields nearly empty.

Nonprofit Shows How To Create An ‘Aboveground Railroad’ For Migrants

In the 1980s, when Sendy Soto and her family left Guatemala for the United States in search of a better life, they followed in a long American immigrant tradition by making Chicago’s Logan Square their home. There, among her Mexican, Central American, Polish and other immigrant neighbors, Soto was instilled with a sense of community and a desire to help and work with Chicago’s growing migrant population. A 2020 report from the Vera Institute of Justice showed that 1.7 million migrants reside in Chicago, about 18% of the population, and 842,000 are at risk of deportation.

‘Driver’s Licenses For All’ Bill A Model For Data Privacy Protections

An attorney who worked with Minnesota Democrats to craft the new ‘Driver’s Licenses For All’ bill, recently signed into law, spoke to Unicorn Riot about the bill’s privacy provisions that reportedly prevent driver data from being shared with the feds. On March 2, the Democrat-controlled Minnesota state legislature passed the “Driver’s Licenses For All” bill, restoring driving privileges to all Minnesota residents regardless of immigration status. Democratic Governor Tim Walz signed the bill into law on March 7. This legislation comes after a 20-year struggle. In 2003, GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty unilaterally revoked the right of some Minnesotans to obtain a driver’s license by mandating proof of legal residency in the United States, such as a Social Security Number from applicants.

Major Immigrant Rights Victory: ‘Drivers Licenses For All’ Bill Passes

Saint Paul, Minnesota - Despite a snowstorm of historic proportions, hundreds of immigrants and supporters packed the State Capitol February 21 as the Senate debated Senate File 27, the Drivers Licenses for All bill which would allow Minnesotans to get a driver's license regardless of immigration status. After more than six hours of debating hostile Republican amendments, the Senate voted to pass the bill around 2:00 a.m. on a party-line vote, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against. The bill previously passed the House, and Governor Tim Walz already indicated he will sign it, so the Senate vote seals the victory for this major priority for immigrant communities and the immigrant rights movement.

Chicago Mandated Contracts For Domestic Workers

Chicago, Illinois - As of Jan. 1, 2022, a new ordinance took effect in Chicago aimed at bringing much-needed accountability to an industry that has been, by and large, treated as part of the informal economy: domestic work. Domestic work covers a range of jobs, from nannies and home-caregivers to home cleaners, but domestic workers themselves—the majority of whom are people of color and the vast majority of whom are women—are not protected by most labor laws and are frequently subjected to rampant wage theft and harassment. The Chicago ordinance requires employers to provide workers, regardless of their immigration status, with written contracts codifying mutually agreed terms of employment, including wages, work schedule, and scope of responsibilities.

Four People Arrested At Invesco’s Shareholders’ Meeting In Atlanta

Yesterday afternoon people interrupted and disrupted Invesco‘s annual shareholders’ meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Invesco responded by dragging them out of the meeting. A crowd rallied outside of the shareholders’ meeting calling for Invesco to end their investments in the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The protest ended with four people being arrested. The Wyatt has faced controversy and ongoing protests after signing a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2019, allowing the Wyatt to detain people on behalf of the agency. After this contract was signed, widespread community opposition led the board overseeing the Wyatt to cancel the agreement with ICE.

Smart Borders Or A Humane World?

This report delves into the rhetoric of “smart borders” to explore their ties to a broad regime of border policing and exclusion that greatly harms migrants and refugees who either seek or already make their home in the United States. Investment in an approach centered on border and immigrant policing, it argues, is incompatible with the realization of a just and humane world. Case studies from Chula Vista, California, the European Union, Honduras, Mississippi, and the Tohono O’odham Nation provide substance to this analysis. So, too, do graphics that illustrate the militarized US border strategy and the associated expansion of borders; the growing border industrial complex; the spreading web of surveillance; and the relationship between wall-building, global inequality, and climate change-related displacement.

Golden Gate Bridge Shutdown For Immigration Reform

As morning broke over San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday, northbound traffic was brought to a halt when dozens of undocumented mothers, students and their allies risked arrest to engage in civil disobedience. Just before 7 a.m., protesters exited their cars, carrying banners and calling on Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Traffic piled up in the bridge’s northbound lanes as demonstrators decried the Democrats’ lack of action to pass meaningful immigration reform, stopping morning commuters for about an hour.

Not A Nation Of Immigrants

On George Washington’s birthday, 2018, the Donald Trump administration’s director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, changed the agency’s official mission statement, dropping the language of “a nation of immigrants” to describe the United States. The previous mission statement had said the agency “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.” The revised mission statement reads: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

San Diego Protesters In Solidarity With Migrant Caravan

On March 13, the Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted a march and banner drop beginning at Larsen Field, in the San Ysidro neighborhood of San Diego, next to the Tijuana-San Diego border. Other organizations in attendance included Socialist Alternative, Immigrant Justice League, San Diego Sunrise Movement, ANSWER San Diego, and other supporters in the community. The demonstration was held in solidarity with the migrant caravan making its way to the border through Mexico. Thousands of migrants are currently fleeing violence and persecution that are a direct result of U.S. intervention in Central America.  Just miles from San Ysidro is the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The OMDC is the site where the first Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee died from COVID-19. 

Smarter Empire

In June 2019, candidate Joe Biden pledged to wealthy donors that ‘nothing would fundamentally change’ once he was elected. In Latin America at least, he is keeping that promise. The evidence so far suggests a continuity of policy objectives: promoting corporate profits, minimizing migration, maintaining alliances with repressive right-wing governments and marginalizing the left. But the Biden team intends to avoid the excesses of his predecessor, seen as ‘counterproductive’ in ruling circles. The roster of appointees suggests a strong affinity with both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Most have passed through the revolving door once or twice, as their official bios and company websites boast. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s resume includes top roles in Washington and at private equity firm Pine Island Capital Partners.

Groups In The South Are Working To Fix A Broken Farm Labor System

For years, legal organizations and farmworker advocacy groups have sounded the alarm about the H-2A visa program — the most common legal route to hiring foreign agricultural workers. Faced with massive worker shortages, farmers in the South have increasingly turned to foreign laborers, who come to work on temporary employer-sponsored visas. The program, which ties employees and their visas to the employer, is rife with abuse. Wage theft is rampant, forced labor is common, and the contracts employers sign, which guarantee certain hours and living conditions, are rarely honored. On top of that the U.S. Department of Labor rarely enforces regulations, which allows mistreatment to go unchecked.
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