UAW Local 2865, UC student worker union, hosts immigration rights workshop

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The UAW Local 2865 hosted a public workshop Wednesday to discuss the legal rights for immigrants, visa-holders and other noncitizens in response to recent changes in federal executive immigration policy.

More than 60 students and Berkeley community members attended the Know Your Rights: Training and Legal Consultation Event, held in Anthony Hall. The workshop also offered attendees the opportunity for individual legal consultation with professional attorneys on hand.

The workshop was one of nine similar events that will be hosted across all UC campuses by UAW Local 2865, the labor union representing over 16,000 academic student employees in the UC system. Through the Know Your Rights workshops, union leadership hopes to address the Trump administration’s “antagonism to UC staff, faculty, visa-holders and employees,” said Margaret Mary Downey, the Unit Chair of UAW Local 2865.

“By limiting who is able to come to Berkeley, the policies of the presidential administration limits students’ academic freedom,” Downey said.

The first 90 minutes of the workshop featured a presentation hosted by Brittney Rezaei and Linda Tam, attorneys from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the East Bay Community Law Centerrespectively. Titled “Resisting The Trump Administration: Immigrant Rights,” the presentation began with a broad overview of recent changes resulting from President Trump’s three recent executive orders on border security and foreign nationals, including a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Rezaei and Tam also offered suggestions for how noncitizens could affirm their legal rights when confronted by immigration authorities at home or in transit, in light of recent reports of numerous arrests and detainments of immigrants by the U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement across the country. The two attorneys advised any individuals with noncitizen status to consult with an immigration attorney before considering leaving the country.

Attendees got questions answered, but were not necessarily relieved of personal angst. Mo Segad, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, attended Wednesday’s workshop in hopes of getting more information about current visa statutes.

“I originally had a business trip to Europe planned three weeks from now … but after tonight’s information, it seems like traveling abroad is a serious uncertainty,” Segad said.

According to Downey, UAW 2865 plans to continue looking for ways to advocate for immigrant rights and connecting its advocacy to larger immigrant and refugee rights in surrounding communities. One option under consideration, Downey said, is thinking of ways to codify in future labor contracts protections for visa holders and undocumented students.

Campus administrators remain attentive to ongoing developments in federal immigration policy. While encouraging students to utilize public resources like the American Civil Liberties Union website to understand their rights, director of Berkeley International Office Ivor Emmanuel, still expressed serious concern surrounding the administration’s policies on immigration.

“There is fear amongst the international community that this administration is not one of inclusion,” Emmanuel said. “The feeling is: today it might be someone else, but tomorrow it might be me.”

Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected].