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Commentary
Close the camps

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, July 26, 2019

By Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President,
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

Close the camps.

The ensuing humanitarian crisis and dehumanizing treatment of immigrant families at our border and in our communities is threatening to undermine our democracy and further decimate the gains that the labor movement has won for all workers across this country.

The images coming across our news feed from the detention facilities are just the tip of a giant iceberg that is our failure to address immigration policy in this country in a way that protects human rights and provides basic worker protections. This situation, along with the threat of toxic raids, is dividing our country and leaving broad swaths of our communities in states of fear, panic and trauma.

This division is not happening by accident. Economic rules and political strategies in this country and abroad are producing an outpouring of families who hold so much fear, and are so desperate, that they will do anything to try to make a better life for themselves.

This dynamic creates an ecosystem where bosses can offer work to the lowest, most frightened bidder, driving down standards across all industries. Wage theft, labor trafficking and worker misclassification are other consequences of this broken ecosystem.

Fear-based statements are designed to distract us from the attacks on our union freedoms and the continued hoarding of wealth at the top.

This fear is not immigrants’ to bear alone. Workers across many sectors are just one job away from a financial crisis. Most Americans have less than $500 in a savings account — not enough to cover a minor emergency or to handle the loss of a job.

This type of fear permeates all facets of our lives and it is creating space for an agenda we see unfolding that is, frankly, un-American. Some want us to “send people back to where they came from” as a notion that diversity and new voices are the reason for our economic problems and barriers to just getting ahead. These types of fear-based statements are designed to distract us from the attacks on our union freedoms and the continued hoarding of wealth at the top.

Advocating for systemic change across this country to make us a better, stronger, more unified nation should be the calling of all Americans. Our diversity is our strength and our American identity is built on this diversity, progress and innovation. We support unity over division.

The labor movement has and will continue to call for a broad re-imagination of our immigration policies. Our immigration policies should serve people as people, not become a tool for class warfare. Closing the camps alone will not end the fear and stigma, but it is the necessary and bold action needed in this historic humanitarian moment.

The labor movement is all of us. Immigrant and non-immigrant, we must be greater than fear and stand shoulder to shoulder together against actions that try to separate us.

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.



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