Union Groups Unite to Oppose Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Actions

Yves Gomes has a dream. Actually, he has two.

One is to stay in the United States, continue his education and on-the-job training and rise to ever-more skilled and successful jobs, which he can use to support his family.

The other is to see his parents again, for real, for the first time in eight years.

Gomes is one of the 700,000 “Dreamers” in the U.S.: Undocumented young people, now working or going to school or serving the military, but who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children – and too young to make the decision for themselves.

Those youths, like their parents, are undocumented. But unlike their parents, they’ve been protected under an Obama administration program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which new Republican President Donald Trump may dump.

And, like their parents, the dreamers now fear deportation, family breakup, or both.

That’s what happened to Gomes’ parents and that’s what brought him, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 and a board member of the AFL-CIO’s Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), to a Jan. 27 rally by the fed’s constituency groups, pledging mass unity and lobbying against Trump’s deportation plans.

APALA and the other constituency groups – the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and Pride at Work – announced a series of moves to mobilize both their members and the wider electorate against Trump’s deportation agenda.

The moves include plans to lobby lawmakers, to campaign locally against police stop-and-frisk tactics – a particular threat to black and brown immigrants and refugees – and the launch of an app that not only details sanctuary cities, but provides names and contact information of local officials to lobby to get their cities and towns to become sanctuaries, too.

The reason is simple: They want to protect their families and to protect workers.

Trump “has attacked all of us in the labor movement, and we’re here to say ‘Enough is enough!” said Hector Sanchez, a former top LCLAA official who now chairs the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. “Immigrants and refugees are our families,” he stated.

 “They are our members and we will defend their rights and resist” their deportation “all over the nation,” he added.

“Is there no shame?” asked Carlos Jimenez, executive director of the Metro D.C. Central Labor Council, when discussing Trump’s threat to yank money from “sanctuary cities” such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

“And the refugees?” Jimenez added, referring to Trump’s ban on entrance to the U.S. by anyone – even with proper papers -- from seven majority-Muslim nations. “We have Muslim members and we are committed to fighting for them, too.”

After Trump’s order, the fight over admitting refugees is continuing nationwide. Trump’s ban on Muslims caught people in transit who had landed here or were being turned away even outside the U.S. So demonstrations erupted at airports as large as JFK in New York City and O’Hare in Chicago and as small as Gowen Field, in Boise, Idaho, a deep-red pro-Trump state.

Meanwhile, unions and other groups are laying plans to resist Trump’s anti-undocumented, anti-immigrant actions, too.

Tim Schlittner, a co-vice-president of Pride at Work, said the fed’s gay-lesbian-transgen-der-bisexual constituency group, and the broader gay rights movement, “will provide sanctuary to our immigrant brothers and sisters.” LGBTQ immigrants and refugees are in particular peril, Schlittner said, since many come from nations where “deportation (back) is a death sentence.”

Three-fourths of immigrants and refugees are women and children, added CLUW Executive Director Carol Rosenblatt. Those women are also exploited when they get here, with 60 percent working in so-called contingent labor jobs, “mostly in elder and child care.”  

Gomes’ parents were undocumented, but they had solid middle-class jobs, he said in an interview afterwards. His father, Robin, was a restaurant worker at the unionized Washington Hilton Hotel and a member of D.C.’s Unite Here local. His mother, Cecilia, was a computer science professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

But when the local police officer who stopped them for a broken taillight found out they were undocumented, his department alerted the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. ICE agents raided their house, breaking down the door at night, and hauled his parents off in handcuffs. They were deported to India, his native land. Gomes has never seen them in the same room with him again.

Since he’s one of the dreamers, Gomes has strong support from Local 400 in his battle to stay in the U.S. while working his way up in a local Safeway supermarket. “I’m scared for my wife, too. We will resist and we will fight,” he says. Meanwhile, he studies to be a pharmacist.

Sanchez urged everyone to join the campaign. “Silence is not an option,” he warned.

And former Metro D.C. CLC chief Joslyn Williams, speaking for the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, said that even people here with proper papers must fight for the undocumented.

“Don’t rest easy. Today, those who are undocumented are in trouble. Tomorrow it could be those who are documented,” he warned.