Formed in 1997 “in response to an increase in workplace raids by the INS,” the goal of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHRI) is to secure labor rights for illegal aliens in the United States by confronting “anti-immigrant policies through grassroots education and action.” Says CHRI: “We believe that all people, regardless of immigration status, deserve basic human, civil and labor rights. Our primary focus has been on the way in which immigration policies serve to discourage undocumented immigrants from defending their labor rights, including the right to organize.”
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, CHRI began distributing a pamphlet calling for the discontinuance of immigration-control measures. This publication urged illegal immigrants to try to influence public policy by contacting local political representatives. “Whether you are a U.S citizen or not,” the pamphlet read, “and regardless of your legal status, you have a representative and two senators who represent you in the U.S. Congress, and you have the right … to voice your concerns. They won’t ask you about your status, and you don’t have to tell them.” CHRI has also published a brochure entitled Protect Yourself During a Raid, advising illegal immigrant workers on how to avoid being arrested.
CHRI endorsed the December 18, 2001 “Statement of Solidarity with Migrants,” which was drawn up by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR). This Statement lamented the “heightened attacks against immigrant communities” in the United States; “the devastating effects of fear, racism, and xenophobia on our communities [where] immigrants have become the specific targets of law enforcement and public scapegoating in the name of national security”; and the “discriminatory policies passed on the basis of legal status in the wake of September 11.” To counter these alleged trends, the Statement called for the implementation of “an immigration policy built on the principles of dignity, justice, and equality that uphold the civil and human rights of all people, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, immigration or citizenship status.” The underlying premise is that America is a nation rife with injustices against many groups, of which “undocumented immigrants” are just one. The NNIRR Statement was also co-endorsed by the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, the American Friends Service Committee, California Prison Focus, Global Exchange, the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Institute for MultiRacial Justice, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Korean Solidarity Committee, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Political Research Associates, the Refugee Women’s Network, and the Women of Color Resource Center.
CHRI is also an endorser of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition (IWFRC), an open-borders entity that works to secure civil rights, civil liberties, and amnesty for illegal aliens. Among CHRI’s co-endorsers of IWFRC are: ACORN; the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Friends Service Committee; the American Immigration Lawyers Association; the Bill of Rights Defense Committee; the Border Action Network; the Center for Constitutional Rights; Citizen Action; the Council on American-Islamic Relations; the Democratic Socialists of America; Gamaliel; Global Exchange; the International Socialist Organization; ISAIAH; the League of United Latin American Citizens; the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Muslim Public Affairs Council; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the National Council of La Raza; the National Council of Women’s Organizations; the National Immigration Forum; the National Immigration Law Center; the National Lawyers Guild; the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; the National Organization for Women; Not In Our Name; Pax Christi USA; the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; the Service Employees International Union; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Southern Poverty Law Center; and the Workers World Party. The individual co-endorsers of IWFCR include Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, and Howard Zinn.
In July 2003, CHRI endorsed a letter crafted by the Refugee Council USA and addressed to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Expressing “concern about the increasing criminal prosecution of asylum seekers who rely on false documents to enter the United States,” this letter lamented that “such prosecutions penalize refugees for using what is often their only means of escaping persecution, and undermine the legal and ethical commitment of the United States to protecting those displaced by armed conflict and human rights abuses.” “Many Jewish refugees,” the letter added, “… were only able to escape Nazi Germany by using false documents.” CHRI’s co-endorsers of this letter included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center, Immigration & Refugee Services of America, Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Forum, the National Immigration Law Center, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Physicians for Human Rights, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the World Organization Against Torture USA.
CHRI receives funding from the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute.