Helping Workers Means Helping Immigrants


Know Your Rights training hosted by Make the Road New York (Photo Credit: Claudio Papapietro)


At the Consortium for Worker Education, supporting workers and protecting immigrants are not at odds; they are part of the same mission. Increased deportations and raids are instilling fear in immigrant communities and those who serve New York’s workers must act.
Recent events show what is at stake. Earlier this year, CWE partnered with Workers United on English classes for the union’s immigrant members. Early class sessions saw low attendance, as immigrants feared leaving their homes to get services.
“If we fail to act to protect workers as immigrants, we will never be able to protect and support them as workers,” says Joe McDermott, Executive Director of the Consortium for Worker Education. “New York has some of the strongest organizations serving immigrants in the country, so we are partnering with them to make those services available to all our partners, and their immigrant members.”
In the coming weeks and months, Make the Road New York (MRNY) will provide a series of trainings for CWE partner unions and community organizations. The “train the trainer” series will prepare those organizations to train their own members for encounters with immigration authorities. Organizations will also learn how to respond to raids and proactively protect immigrant members.


Workers learn what to do if ICE comes to their home at Make the Road New York's Know Your Rights training (Photo credit: Joan Beard)


“Immigrant communities are facing unprecedented attacks from Washington. But our communities are resilient, and we are lucky to have partners like CWE who are working hand-in-hand with us to protect immigrant communities,” says Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York.
“With CWE's support, MRNY is able to train immigrant community members on their rights and train other trainers who are on the front lines serving immigrant communities,” Oshiro adds.
The goal is to build capacity in existing community and labor organizations that immigrants trust, the same strategy that CWE has used successfully to expand job training and placement services across the city.
Unions – long the backbone of CWE – are renewing their focus on immigrants in the workplace. 1199 SEIU is training healthcare workers to advocate for their patients’ immigration rights and protect their health at the same time. Teamsters Joint Council 16, led by George Miranda, who also chairs the CWE board, declared itself a “sanctuary union” in September and pledged to defend its members from actions by ICE. CWE plans to work with unions in the coming months to expand these efforts through Workplace Protection Workshops and to advise unions on policies that can safeguard the immigration status of workers.


Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda, who serves as Chairman of the CWE board, speaks outside of ICE offices about the detention of an immigrant Teamster member.


Other CWE partners with experience supporting immigrants are already hitting the ground running. Long-time CWE partner HANAC will be providing “know your rights” training to over 1,000 immigrants in the Queens and Northern Manhattan communities it serves, and will provide one-on-one legal counseling.
CWE is also expanding its network to serve more immigrants. The ANSOB Center for Refugees, based in Astoria, assists refugees with English and citizenship classes. Funding from CWE will allow ANSOB to increase the number of refugees it is assisting with immigration legal services, and provide job readiness, resume writing, and job search training to the immigrant communities it serves.


ANSOB Center for Refugees provides English classes to immigrants.


“These services support our job training and other worker programs, but it is also the right thing to do,” says McDermott. “Our constituency is immigrant workers and we need to be there for them.”