- The immigrant-rights arm of the Center for Community Change
- Advocates for social, economic, and racial justice
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:
- “help local immigrant rights organizations to become increasingly powerful voices for their communities”
- “support and organize youth leadership in our communities to give the next generation of immigrant community leaders a collective national voice”
- “facilitate cross-cultural alliance building among America’s diverse immigrant communities and native-born low-income and people of color communities”
- “contribute to our democracy through deep political education and increases in the number of immigrants who achieve legal status and who become citizens and voters”
- “provide tools, information and strategic assistance to local organizations to make positive policy changes at the local, state and national levels”
- “create opportunities for immigrant community leaders from around the nation to learn from one another, help each other overcome obstacles and aggregate their collective power.”
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:
- End the deportations of parents of U.S. citizen children: The subjects of this demand are illegal aliens whose children are American citizens as a result of having been born in the United States. Regardless of the circumstances, FIRM categorically contends that “separating parents from children is a morally reprehensible act.”
- End the deportations of military veterans: This is a reference to illegal aliens who at one time enlisted in the U.S. armed forces.
- End the deportations of DREAM-eligible young people: This reference is to the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would allow illegal-alien students to attend college at the reduced tuition rates normally reserved for in-state legal residents, and to earn conditional permanent residency and a path to citizenship.
- End the deportations of immigrants who have families, jobs and deep roots in America and are contributing to their communities.
- Provide protection for all immigrants who are vulnerable to deportation simply because their paperwork is currently in process, and they are trapped in a bureaucratic backlog.
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.