The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) was established in 2000 as a project of the Center for Community Change (CCC), whose Immigrant Organizing Committee functions as FIRM’s governing body and is itself composed of some 30 groups, including: Casa de Maryland, the Gamaliel Foundation, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and the New York Immigration Coalition.
FIRM describes itself as “a national coalition of grassroots organizations fighting for immigrant rights at the local, state and federal level.” “Deeply committed to long-term social change,” FIRM aims to diminish “the crushing impact that America’s broken immigration system has on immigrant families.” Toward that end, the Movement calls on the U.S. government to offer illegal aliens some type of path toward citizenship. Striving also to maximize the political influence of immigrants as a unified voting bloc, FIRM’s chief priorities are to:
One of FIRM’s leading initiatives is its Change Takes Courage (CTC) campaign, which seeks to minimize the deportation of illegal immigrants. Specifically, CTC advocates the following policies:
FIRM’s CTC campaign also defends the rights of workers who are in the U.S. illegally, on grounds that “no economic recovery can be achieved by our nation without respect for worker rights as a key element.” Most notably, CTC opposes: the use of E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine whether their employees are eligible to work in the United States; I-9 audits, by which the government investigates employers to determine whether they have knowingly or unwittingly hired any illegal workers; and the Social Security Administration’s practice of sending “no-match letters” to employers if a worker’s name does not correspond to a valid Social Security number.
In 2007, FIRM endorsed a series of principles advocating “economic justice” and an “increase” in the number of “refugees” coming into America, a declaration which it proceeded to send to Congress.
In a February 2009 address to the Liberty Hill Foundation, FIRM co-founder Deepak Bhargava celebrated “the election of the first African-American President [Barack Obama] in a country that is still deeply structured by racism.”
From the start of Obama’s tenure in the White House, FIRM welcomed the President as an ally and placed its full support behind his political agendas. Most notably, FIRM backed Obama’s efforts to package immigration reform as an economic benefit:
“The President was … right in saying that immigration reform is a vital component of our economic recovery. Studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform will add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy, drive up wages for all workers and support nearly a million jobs.”
On April 23, 2010, FIRM attacked Arizona’s newly passed immigration law (SB 1070)—which authorized state police to question suspected lawbreakers about their immigration status—arguing that it “codifies racial profiling.” Gabe Gonzalez, CCC’s national campaign director and a FIRM political strategist, declared that “at its core this [law] is about racism”; he called on President Obama “to stop” this “state-sponsored racism.”
Following the Saul Alinsky model of social-change activism championed by CCC luminaries like Heather Booth, FIRM funnels a large portion of its financial resources into activist-training programs. Many of its top trainers are prominent figures serving in prestigious and influential positions with other organizations and institutions.