A. Immigrant Rights
As an organization directed by and working with Latino immigrants, Centro Presente is focused on the issues surrounding the root causes and day-to-day realities of immigration. We strive to educate our members about the global socio-economic realities that cause people to leave their homes for other nations, while at the same time provide a space where they can practically confront the daily problems that the community as a whole shares.
In keeping with our organizing model, Centro Presente’s goal is to educate, organize and empower the immigrant community to advocate for itself and to advance the cause of a just and humane reformation of immigration policy. The principle tools we use to realize this goal are the Immigrant Rights Committee, Know your Rights Workshops and Immigrant Rights Campaigns.
Immigrant Rights Committee
Active Centro Presente members and staff make up the Immigrant Rights Committee. Like all of Centro’s member committees the group meets two times a month to discuss current immigration concerns, to plan educational workshops and to strategize on immigration campaigns and events.
Know your Rights Workshops
The Immigrant Rights Committee has developed and conducted a series of hour long popular education workshops to educate the immigrant community about their rights as immigrants in this country. The curriculum of the workshops covers issues such as how to respond in the event of a workplace raid by immigration enforcement agents, the basic rights available to residents in the case of arrest and during the execution of search warrants, and other themes.
Immigrant Rights Campaigns
In response to events in the community and in an effort to educate the public, both immigrant and otherwise, the Immigrant Rights Committee engages in Immigrant Rights Campaigns to better publicize issues surrounding immigration and sensitize U.S. society to the concerns of immigrants.
B. Worker’s Rights
We strongly believe that all persons, regardless of their nationality, race, legal or other status, are entitled to fundamental human rights and basic labor protections, including immigrant workers and their families. Due to their vulnerable status in this country, immigrant workers are especially in need of explicit guarantees of these rights and protection from labor exploitation.
Centro Presente has recently established a Workers Center that engages our members in developing and exercising their leadership and generating a collective and better understanding about what a Workers Center is.
The Mission of Centro Presente’s Workers Center (CPWC) is to educate, organize, empower and mobilize Latino immigrant workers experiencing injustice in the workplace in order to achieve positive and collective action for systemic change.
The Workers Rights Area is an important part of our work and we focus on:
- Developing worker leadership and organizing skills
- Providing and engaging workers in community education activities
- Resolving labor cases through worker and community action
These goals are realized through the organization of a Workers Rights Committee, the management of labor rights abuse cases via Collective In-take Sessions, the educational and awareness raising of our Know Your Workers Rights Workshops and the facilitation of Workers Rights Campaigns.
Workers Rights Committee
The Workers Rights Committee is composed of immigrant workers who are active members of Centro Presente. The Committee is intended to be a space to develop the leadership of the committee members. The Committee meets twice a month to discuss their rights as workers, to explore possibilities to take collective action on specific cases and to plan education campaigns.
The strategy of CPWC is to involve the workers in the decision making process and give them the space to be active at every level of our organization. Members of the Workers Rights Committee participate actively in the electoral process for new board members and can become part of Centro’s Board of Directors.
Collective In-take sessions
In collaboration with volunteers and the workers, we coordinate collective in-take sessions, where groups of workers file labor complaints with CPWC. These cases are then managed jointly by Centro staff and members of the Workers Rights Committee.
Specific cases may become the subject of larger Workers Rights Campaigns, may be resolved through negotiations with the employer in question, or may enter into a legal process through referral to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
More critical than the actual labor cases resolved by the CPWC is the strategy of the collective in-take sessions. By sharing their experiences and jointly exploring the cases that they bring to the CPWC, the workers directly engage in collective action and are involved as active participants in the process, not as clients receiving services. The CPWC provides immigrant workers a secure space to share with other workers their experiences of injustice in the workplace, to have the opportunity to learn about workers rights and to raise their awareness of the necessity of taking collective action in order to change their situation.
Know Your Workers Rights Workshops
CPWC has developed an hour-long popular workshop that provides participants a review of the rights they have, then moves quickly to a participatory method of looking beyond laws towards collective action to solve work-place issues.
Beyond educating and training immigrant workers about their rights as workers, it is very important for us to ensure that they understand that collectively they have the power to create systemic change and a more just workplace.
Organizers and active Workers Right Committee members facilitate the workshops on workers’ rights in different neighborhoods, in local churches and at Centro Presente.
Workers Rights Campaigns
Specific labor cases may be taken on as a Workers Rights Campaign depending on the interests of the workers involved and the case itself. As in all of CPWC’s activities the worker members of Centro play a protagonist role in this effort. This begins with an analysis of the situation, including the definition of an organized campaign, the mapping of power relations, the identification of campaign targets and demands, and the drafting of detailed strategies and tactics.
Centro Presente relies on its organizers and the solidarity of allied organizations to facilitate these campaigns, but ultimately it is the action of the workers that directs and animates the campaigns. The workers are provided training in the skills that are necessary to manage a campaign, such as speaking to the media, understanding the legal aspects of their cases, and navigating the negotiation process.
C. Civic Engagement
Centro Presente has worked with the Latino immigrant community for 30 years and in that time we have seen generations of immigrant families realize U.S. residency and, in time, citizenship with assistance from our Legal Department Staff. Urging these new citizens to become actively engaged in the civic life of their communities is now a critical element of our community organizing for social and economic justice for the Latino immigrant community.
As the Latino population of the United States grows, our Civic Engagement area seeks to educate this community in the Greater Boston area as to how they can make their voices heard and to ensure that their elected officials truly represent their interests. For Centro Presente civic engagement means more than mobilizing those who are eligible to vote. As many of our members are still unable to vote, we are exploring what it means for immigrants to be actively involved in the civic life of their community. As in all our community organizing work, our principle tools in this area include our member-driven Committees, educational and awareness raising activities (workshops, radio, community meetings), and events and organized campaigns.
Civic Engagement Committee
Active Centro Presente members and staff make up the Civic Engagement Committee. Like all of Centro’s member committees the group meets two times a month to discuss current topics concerning immigration participation in civic life, to plan popular educational activities and to strategize on civic engagement campaigns and events.
Civic Engagement Campaigns
Because Centro Presente recognizes that the civic participation of immigrants is a key component in the broader, long term movement for social justice, we recently incorporated this work as an important component of our organizing. Giving voice to our members and building community power are important components of our mission, and we see the electoral work as a tool to advance that mission.
We want to use this work to educate our members about the structure of local government, to encourage them to participate in community based voter education events and activities, to fully appreciate the opportunities they have to take part in the democratic process, to maintain accountable their elected officials, and to build political power in order to make positive changes in our communities.
‘Our Voices, Our Vote’ Civic Engagement Campaign
‘Our Voices, Our Vote’ is an on-going civic participation campaign with the goal of increasing civic participation and immigrant influence in local politics in Somerville and in other cities in the greater Boston area.
The ‘Our Voices, Our Vote’ campaign has held voter registration drives, candidate forums and other events. Through these campaign activities, Centro Presente, also wants to open the door and give the space to members who are not US citizens to take a proactive role and to be politically active. These members should also have the opportunity to be a part of the forces that are going to help us to maintain politicians accountable and focused on the issues that affect all community members, citizens and residents alike.