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"Solidarity Without Borders" - IFPTE President Shearon Joins AFL-CIO Delegation to El Paso and Juarez

AFL-CIO Solidarity without Borders

On October 29th and 30th, IFPTE President Paul Shearon joined 100 labor leaders from over 20 unions across the U.S. in El Paso to hear workers' stories about surviving and organizing in border communities in the U.S. and Mexico, to demand an end to the politics of division and hate, and to call for justice, due process, labor rights and human rights on both sides of the border.

On Tuesday afternoon, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, President Shearon, and AFL-CIO staff, and representatives from various unions observed an afternoon session at the Immigration Court at the El Paso hears the cases of detained immigrants. Judges at that court and a second court in downtown El Paso are represented by the National Association of Immigration Judges, IFPTE Judicial Council 2. The court observation, arranged with the guidance of the Hope Border Institute, served as an opportunity for IFPTE and AFL-CIO staff to discuss recent DOJ policies that may undermine due process for people who appear in court.

Later that evening, the union delegation attended a dinner at La Mujer Obrera, a community space that was once a garment factory until the post-NAFTA factory relocations gutted the local industry. NAFTA’s impact on manufacturing, wages, and income inequality, and the attendant gains for corporate power at the expense of communities and local cultures was highlighted by workers on both sides of the border.

A solidarity vigil held at the memorial next to the El Paso Walmart - the site where on August 3rd a white-supremacist killed 22 people, injured 24 others in an attack meant to terrorize and target the immigrant and Hispanic community - placed the delegation’s work in our current political moment. In response to the increasingly dehumanizing situation at the border and the prevalence of racist and white-nationalist rhetoric in political discourse, Shearon and labor leaders each lit a candle at the vigil site with the invocation, “We honor the victims of this tragedy and pledge solidarity in face of division and hate.”

On Wednesday, the delegation was joined by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and heard from researchers, activists providing legal aid refugees, and organizers on the ground in Cuidad Juarez. While the complex circumstances drive migration to the U.S. from Central America and all over the world, the common thread in migration and displacement is economic and material needs.

After crossing the border bridge on foot from El Paso into into Juarez, the delegation witnessed first-hand the challenges and the dire humanitarian crisis that the Remain-In-Mexico asylum process has created. Families waiting to have their cases heard by asylum officers and immigration judges lack safe housing and are left with no alternative other than the tent sites along the border.

The delegation heard accounts of people organizing fellow Guatemalan migrants fleeing corporations that are violently seizing land and natural resources from indigenous populations, textile and mine workers fighting company unions and organizing independent labor union in the economic aftermath of NAFTA, and deported U.S. veterans who are building support for the right to live in the nation they’ve served.

The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Without Borders delegation is a starting point for union leaders and union members to build a common message of solidarity that acknowledges worker rights and human rights and dignity. Conversations on this trip heighten the demand for a fair and just immigration system and a trade policy that boosts wages and workers rights of all working people.