Workers’ Rights Leaders Face Deportation

Following onto the intent of the POWER Act, a bill twice introduced by Senator Menendez, the POWER Campaign has been working to lift up workers in their struggle for increased protections from exploitation and retaliation.  This spring when 32 workers from the South banded together to form Stand Up 2012, the POWER Campaign rallied around to demand that current protections be applied to these workers and to expose where current policies have failed workers in their access to labor and civil rights.

On June 5th, six workers from Southern 32 made the trip from New Orleans to DC to tell decision makers how they ended up detained and in deportation proceedings for standing up for their labor and civil rights.  Sitting with Representative Gutierrez one of the workers, Melvin, told how he was hired to clean up after Hurricane Ike, but he and other workers were denied safety gear for working in toxic sludge – and then weren’t paid the wages they were owed. When Melvin helped organize a strike, his employer called the police. He was arrested and put in deportation proceedings – all for having the courage to speak out.

As is all too common, Melvin and the other Southern 32 workers were retaliated against for trying to organize themselves and for defending their rights.  Because these thirty-two were immigrant workers ICE was used to limit their access to justice and they are currently on the verge of deportation.

The problem of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in workplace retaliation and the chilling effect it has on the rights of all workers has been widely recognized, but current policies to protect against such abuses are not working.  The Southern 32 qualify for prosecutorial discretion under the civil rights provisions of the Morton Memo, but regional ICE officials have so far ignored the claims.

The POWER Campaign is working to demand prosecutorial discretion as an important protection for these workers, and to support them as they continue to tell their stories and expose where current policies are failing workers.

Help the Southern 32 access protection: http://bit.ly/KizGb8

To read more stories from the Southern 32: http://www.makejusticereal.org/

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