Local 21 Members at Risk of Deportation

Two IT Workers’ Futures Are Now Unclear         

It’s no secret that immigration is a major target of the current administration. In recent months the Trump administration has set an end date for DACA, pardoned Sherriff Joe Arpaio, created another (now permanent) immigration ban, has plans to severely restrict refugees resettling in the US, stepped up deportation efforts- especially in Cities resisting these deportations, and is taking aim at Sanctuary Cities in an attempt to cut off federal funding as punishment for their stance on local law enforcement’s role in deportation efforts.

Immigration is a union issue. Anti-immigration/ anti-immigrant sentiment is often tied to arguments about how public services should be restricted, rather than invested in. Anti-immigration/ anti-immigrant policies affect our communities, the public we serve, and it effects our fellow union members.

Two Local 21 members are struggling with the effects of 2 different policies that are aimed at reducing lawful residency in the US.

Moises Negrete and Vividh Bhusal are both working in Information Technology (IT) at the Department of Public Health (DPH) in a new, highly competitive training program. The Information Systems Training Program is aimed at training highly qualified individuals coming from non-traditional qualification backgrounds in an attempt to build its workforce in an area that has difficulty filling positions. Out of almost 600 applicants, Negrete and Bhusal were chosen for 2 of the 10 positions available. Now both men are unsure of their futures in the program.

Moises Negrete has lived in CA since he was 6 months old, and is covered under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which has allowed him the ability to apply for a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. Negrete’s work permit expires in the spring, 10 days after DACA will be repealed.  At that time, he will no longer be eligible to legally work for the City.

Negrete is understandably distraught. When his work permit expires, he says he will be “going back to square one. It makes you feel like you are not even a person.” He says that he may go to work for a tech company who would be willing to sponsor him, here or in Canada. But that’s not what he wants to do with his life. “I always wanted to work in the public sector,” Negrete says, “I don’t want my work to just be about money, I want it to mean something.” Something for Negrete means working at a hospital where he serves families like his own. Negrete is coming from a background without access to healthcare, and knows what that’s like. He says he is using his job with the City to help his family, as well as satisfy his sense of purpose. “Come March, once again I’ll be without healthcare, and without a job as well.”

Vividh Bhusal is likely to be affected by a different policy change by the administration. After attending university in the US as an international student, he landed a visa and job in IT at DPH under the Information Systems Training Program. Bhusal has Temporary Protected Status (TPS), given to nationals of countries struggling with the aftermath of natural disasters, wars, or other humanitarian crises to allow them to reside and work in the United States. Bhusal’s home country of Nepal suffered a major earthquake in 2015, and its status on the TPS list of countries is now in jeopardy after the Trump administration has signaled that it will review and not renew the status of many countries on the list. This will mean that hundreds of thousands of people from those countries will lose legal status next year.

Like Negrete, Bhusal is very worried that he will not be able to complete the program and work for the City. He says that if he has to he will look for work elsewhere in the private sector, but what he is doing at DPH is something special. “I feel like I am doing something for the people,” says Bhusal, as opposed to work that is for profit only. Bhusal says that it was very difficult as an international worker to get a job like this one, and badly wants to complete the program and stay on as a public servant.

The stories of these two union members is frustrating because IT has difficulty filling positions, and is in need of workers like Negrete and Bhusal. Both men have inquired about the City sponsoring them so that they can continue to work in IT at DPH. But they have been told the City does not sponsor workers. Local 21 is aware that the City is currently looking at ways it can support undocumented employees while complying with federal law, but there are no details yet as to whether there may be a pathway for these men and others like them to stay.

Moises Negrete and Vividh Bhusal both appeared onstage with Bay Area politicians Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, and Jared Huffman at an event in support of the Dream Act, which would provide a path to permanent legal residency for Dreamers like Negrete. Negrete and Bhusal are left waiting to see whether Congress will pass the Dream Act, and whether the administration’s’ review of countries given Temporary Protected Status will go the way many immigrants fear. In the meantime, rallies in support of people like Negrete and Bhusal have erupted around the country, in the hope that public pressure will help to create a different future.

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Many Local 21 members and their family and friends are affected by anti-immigrant policies. Local 21 published a list of resources earlier this year for anyone seeking help, and it can be found here.