The Labor Movement Responds: Defending Immigrant Workers After the Election of Trump

December 04, 2016
Gabriella Lifsec

Union exit polls revealed that an increased number of union members did not vote Democrat this election. In 2012, Obama won union households by 18 points compared to Clinton’s 8 point lead in 2016. Understanding the sources of their discontent and, in turn, their disappointment with Democratic leadership is critical to garner support for deportation defense. Since unions generally have strong community networks and presence, their support is needed to mobilize in support of this cause. Despite the increased number of union households that voted for Trump and his anti-immigration platform, there are many unions, quoted below, that are rallying behind deportation defense. Here are some suggestions on how to organize deportation defense. 

  • Unions need to use their reach in pro-deportation states to lead resistance

  • Coordinating rights groups and fostering unity

  • Strengthen networks and coalition building

  • Create sanctuaries (schools, towns, cities)

  • Participate in massive demonstrations 

  • Create safe houses

  • Defend a generation of immigrants and take note of the Vietnam War Resistance

  • Provide services for undocumented immigrants (i.e. legal or social work) 

  • Individual unions can band together 

  • Rally the people that want to stand up on this issue

Below are statements released by unions and worker centers after the presidential election:


“As the newly elected President, Donald Trump has promised to be a president for all Americans. We can only hope this means we’ll be able to leave the divisive and damaging rhetoric of the campaign behind and begin working on real solutions to make life better for all working and middle class Americans. Make no mistake, the nation and the world will be watching.”


"The men and women of LIUNA stand ready, able and willing to work with President-elect Trump to move an agenda that works for working families everywhere. The election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States should be a wake-up call to Washington and quite frankly the country. The results convey a deep concern by many with the direction our country is headed and emphasizes the need to make our economy work for middle-class Americans.

LIUNA will continue to defend the founding principles of our nation and our union to ensure that regardless of race, heritage, or gender every working woman and man has an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper in the greatest country in the world."


“The presence of racism, misogyny, and anti-immigrant appeals caused damage in this campaign and we must all try to repair it with inclusion, decency and honesty.” 

Steelworker’s Union

“During this campaign you spoke out vigorously for the need to bring jobs back home, to invest in domestic manufacturing, take a hard line with our trading partners and to reform our nation’s failed trade policies. We share those goals. Indeed, for decades – during Republican and Democratic Administrations – we have been unflinching in our advocacy for policies to promote and support domestic manufacturing and the interests of average working people.”

Unite Here

“Our members have experienced how working families have suffered when Donald Trump is in charge. We have to organize to make change—no matter who is in office. The mentality of hard work produced a number of bright spots last night and showed that the way we organize can produce tremendous wins,” said D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE


“For nearly 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the nation’s premier defender of freedom and justice for all, no matter who is president. Our role is no different today.

“President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.

“These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers, and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

“One thing is certain: we will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency and when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor.”


“As we take stock of the message voters sent yesterday, we see that many were motivated by a real, palpable fear for their ability to provide for their families,” said Saunders in a statement. “We must come together now to address that economic insecurity while not falling prey to the politics of division and hate. We must focus on rebuilding the middle class and restoring the American Dream for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Saunders continued, “For our part, the 1.6 million public service workers of AFSCME will never quit working to make their communities safer, healthier and better places to live. We will do what we do best to hold President-elect Trump accountable on his promise to restore the American Dream: organize and advocate for solutions for all working people, from affordable health care for all, to reducing student debt, to rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”


“Making progress will be more difficult, but our practice of organizing for the long term will let us continue to win justice…We reaffirm our confidence in the American people and in our Si Se Puede! attitude…As the challenges increase so does our commitment and determination to afford all farm workers and low-income working families the opportunities and respect they deserve.”


“The election for president of the United States is over,” Loeb said in a statement issued today. “While we did not achieve the result we desired, I am extremely proud of the work of our political department, local union officers, international officers and representatives and members for the significant efforts made to protect the interests of IATSE members and workers in general. Now we must move on.

“While I am skeptical for obvious reasons, it is my sincere hope that there can be some healing in our starkly divided nation. And while hope may seem an optimistic wish, it is clear that the country is unsatisfied with status quo in our political system. Unfortunately, that widespread feeling has manifested itself in a result that will likely compound the problem. The middle class and working people are in jeopardy of experiencing severe consequences based on the positions and proposed policies espoused by President-elect Trump. Moreover, his anti-union statements virtually guarantee a rough road a

Worker Centers: 


"The Association is deeply concerned by statements Mr. Trump has made regarding women, people of color and immigrants. At the same time, we acknowledge we must work with the new administration to address pressing issues of the day, including justice reforms, racial and gender inequality, access to health care for all, and helping more Americans achieve economic self-sufficiency and stability."


"It may be that President-elect Trump is trying to moderate expectations, and we frankly have no choice but to wait to see what policies actually emerge. However, we will do everything within our power to prevent all deportations, particularly among those people who he criminalizes. 

"Already, racist rhetoric is contributing to the unlawful mistreatment of immigrants. But campaign rhetoric is one thing. Soon Mr. Trump will be called upon to head the executive branch of government, and we will confront that moment when it comes.

"In the meantime, our focus will be on a renewed effort to convince President Obama to sever the link between police and ICE that his administration created. He has 65 days to inoculate against a domestic human rights crisis that his own policies fomented."