UPDATE: SEIU 721 Rescinds Support from Santa Ana ICE Contract

Update on March 22, 2017:

This morning OCIYU received a letter from SEIU 721 expressing their opposition to continuance of Santa Ana’s ICE Contract. This is an important step. The letter reads in part:

“We want to assure our community partners that SEIU Local 721 is unequivocally opposed to the continuance of any ICE detention center in the city of Santa Ana”

Read SEIU 721’s letter in full

Original Post on March 21, 2017:

Below is a copy of a letter submitted to the Executive Board of SEIU 721, demanding that the Board rescind the local SEIU 721 chapter’s support for Santa Ana’s ICE Contract.

Good evening Mr. Schoonover,

My name is Hairo Cortes, I am the Program Coordinator for the Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU), an undocumented immigrant youth-led organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented immigrants to live free from exploitation and persecution, and I am writing to you in your capacity as President of the SEIU 721 Executive Board.

Over the last couple of years OCIYU has been part of a local and national coalition composed of immigrant and LGBTQ rights organizations that has advocated to end the City of Santa Ana’s immigrant detention contract with ICE, an immoral contract by which the City profits from the detention of immigrants, and which SEIU 721’s Santa Ana chapter has continued to support despite its strong opposition from Santa Ana’s large immigrant community, progressive organizations, and its reliance on the inhumane detention and deportation system.

Over the last four years, community members have marched, rallied, risked arrest multiple times, and even gone on hunger strike to move the City to terminate the contract and stop profiting from immigrant detention. As a result of these efforts the Santa Ana City Council moved to reduce the maximum number of people that the city would detain for ICE as part of a phase out of the Contract, a move which ICE cited in its decision to trigger the contract’s cancelation on February 23, 2017.

Although this decision was cheered by immigrant rights advocates locally, and across the nation  your union’s local chapter has continued to stand steadfast in support of the ICE Contract, betraying SEIU’s purported “Progressive”, “Pro-Immigrant” values, along with the immigrant community from which it draws much of its membership and support. Rather than move forward with immigrant rights organizers and assisting in advocating for the release of the LGBTQ immigrant community that made up the majority of the people detained at the Santa Ana City Jail, SEIU 721’s Santa Ana chapter doubled down in its support for the city’s immigrant detention business.

On March 7, 2017 SEIU 721 Santa Ana Chapter President, Mike Lopez, attended the city council meeting to speak in support of Councilman Jose Solorio, who has since been dubbed the Latino Trump by the local immigrant community, and his ultimately failed proposal to direct city staff to renegotiate another immigrant detention contract with ICE.

Today, I write to you on behalf of OCIYU to demand that SEIU 721’s Executive Board rescind your union’s support for a renegotiation of the ICE Contract ahead of this Tuesday’s city council meeting in which Councilman Jose Solorio will once again introduce a motion to try to resuscitate the moribund agreement.

In the Summer of 2016, OCIYU was invited by your union to take part in a local coalition to support you in the upcoming contract negotiations with the City of Santa Ana. Although we attended a few meetings and kept an open mind for collaboration, due a perceived openness to the possibility of changing your union’s position on the ICE Contract, we ceased our participation when it became apparent that this would not be the case.

Although this was a position that OCIYU took on its own, it was not the only organization that did so due to your unions support for immigrant detention. SEIU 721’s continued support for the ICE Contract will further deteriorate your union’s relationships with local community organizations who are united in opposition to the detention for profit business model created by the Contract.

Instead of supporting the ICE contract to maintain immoral prison jobs, SEIU should work to ensure that the city creates jobs that benefit and uplift Santa Ana’s large immigrant community. As long as SEIU puts its self interests above those of the community at large, and continues to stand in support of Latino Trump, Jose Solorio’s, proposals to keep ICE in the city it will continue to face public opposition from immigrant-led community organizations, who could otherwise serve as strong allies in future contract negotiations to create jobs that uplift and benefit everyone.

Sincerely,

Hairo Cortes
Program Coordinator
Orange County Immigrant Youth United