Justice for Immigrant Workers

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) favors both the DREAM Act as well as broader immigration reform legislation that would grant immediate permanent resident status to all undocumented workers and their children and would establish an expeditious and non-punitive road to citizenship for these workers and their families. Such measures should render illegal the all-too-frequent local law practice of using racial-profiling to arbitrarily check individuals’ immigration papers. These practices effectively criminalize “breathing while brown.”

DSA also opposes any and all guest worker programs because they not only exploit the workers involved but also undercut all workers’ rights to secure humane wages and working conditions, especially in the service and agricultural sectors.

DSA will work with other immigrant rights and labor organizations to promote family reunification, to halt deportations, to demilitarize our borders, and to help all of our children–regardless of legal status–to realize the dream of attaining a university education. Finally, DSA will participate in the global struggle for equitable economic development and labor rights, so as to reduce the forces that push desperate people to emigrate.

Legalizing the status of all immigrant workers and their families, as well as providing for a transparent and expeditious road to citizenship, embodies basic democratic socialist principles. First, those who are governed by the laws of a democratic society should have an equal say in the making of such laws. Second, all those who contribute meaningful labor to a democratic society, who care for our elderly, our children and our disabled, deserve full membership in our society. Third, immigrant workers cannot fight for rights on the job and against their exploitation by employers without having full legal status, political rights and an expeditious road to citizenship. Threats of deportation for undocumented workers, as well as second-class status in guest worker programs, also restrict the capacity of all workers to organize. These policies create a new form of indentured servitude, as any worker fired by their employer can be immediately deported.

Democratic socialists understand that massive migrations of exploited workers, refugees and asylum-seekers result from an unjust global political and economic system that works for the benefit of transnational corporations and at the expense of the world's peoples. Immigration to the United States does not only result from the “pull” of greater economic opportunity. It is also caused by the “push” of growing economic inequality and exploitation in developing societies. Much of the current wave of migration to the United States from Mexico, Central America, Africa and the Caribbean can be traced to NAFTA and other unjust “free trade” agreements that enabled subsidized U.S. agribusiness to flood these societies with cheap produce, destroying the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and other rural workers. The export-oriented, often capital-intensive form of manufacturing imposed on them by the IMF, World Bank, and WTO also limits the number of good jobs in the urban economy of these developing nations. The same story can be told about African and East European migration to the European Union.

We can stem the “push” for mass immigration from the developing world only if these economies are allowed to develop in equitable and internally integrated ways. Such development would require the national and international regulation of corporate power by free trade unions and democratic governments as well as the democratization of international economic regulatory institutions.

But reducing or even eliminating the economic forces driving mass immigration is not enough. In the meantime, we must develop humane policies to respond to the presence of nearly 12 million undocumented people already living in the United States. As socialists we know that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Employers can more easily discriminate against young African Americans, particularly unskilled young men without high school diplomas, when there is vulnerable immigrant labor to exploit. And, the availability of a reserve army of the barely employed endangers union wages and union contracts in many areas—notably among lower-skilled construction and factory workers. Increasing the bargaining power of low-wage workers would also force employers to raise the skill-level and productivity of these workers, thus decreasing the “pull” for large numbers of exploitable undocumented immigrant workers.

Finally, the United States should cease further militarization of our borders, a policy that has radically accelerated under the Obama administration. Since the passage of the restrictive 1994 Immigration Reform Act, the federal government has spent more than $45 billion on border enforcement. This activity has not deterred unauthorized border crossings. Instead, it has lined the pockets of “coyotes,” or smugglers who serve the needs of exploitative employers searching for cheap labor. The practice of human smuggling has already led to the cruel, painful deaths of some 6,000 people in the deserts of the Southwest and in the holds of ships.

The immigrant rights movement is the civil rights movement of the 21st century. Its demand for labor rights demonstrates that only by building a truly international labor and democratic political movement can we transition from a global capitalist world to one that promotes economic and social justice.

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 57 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 27 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps


Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.