Four SGI members participated in ICCR‘s Spring Conference: Sr. Ruth Battaglia, C.S.A., Chris Cox, Frank Sherman, and Friar Robert Wotypka, O.F.M., Cap. This post from Sr. Ruth is another report of what we heard and learned at the conference.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes has a strong connection to immigrant communities and their needs. The congregation was founded in 1885 in response to the faith needs of German immigrants in Wisconsin. When Hmong, who were allies of the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and later stages of the Laotian Civil War, started seeking asylum as political refugees after the communist takeover in both nations in 1975, the Sisters of St. Agnes were instrumental in welcoming them and helping them resettle in Fond du Lac, WI. Today, sisters in Arizona provide legal aid and other forms of assistance to the immigrant population along the Naco border with Mexico. Recently the congregation has been advocating on behalf of Dreamers and for a just US immigration policy. They are pleased to join ICCR’s effort to invite companies to look at their policies and practices around immigration.
ICCR believes that just and equitable immigration policies are critical to a stable and prosperous business environment and will promote sustainable communities. At its recent conference in New York, an ICCR session was devoted to the topic of immigration. While some companies claim that immigration does not affect them, they need only look down their supply chain to discover how immigration impacts them. They also will discover that immigrants are very vulnerable to injustices.
In engagement with companies on immigration investors must ask:
- Who is responsible for corporate risk oversight on labor/immigration issues?
- What risks face immigrant workers? Are all workers covered by company policies on worker health and safety, fair wages, benefits? Do workers have a way to report grievances without fear of retaliation?
- How does the company assess engagement with the community when it hires immigrant labor, addressing fears, reducing tensions? How does it relate to ICE? If the number of immigrants decline, where will the company look for qualified employees?
- What are the company’s public policy positions on immigration? Does it publicly support comprehensive immigration reform? Is it supportive of the “Agricultural Worker Program Act” which was introduced in Congress to provide a path to lawful permanent residency for agricultural workers?
One breakout group grappled with guidelines for companies that rely on immigrants in the workforce (beauty, agriculture, textiles, farm-workers) asking them to prohibit passport retention, exactment of fees, harassment and discrimination. Also, the group suggested asking companies to provide contracts and to grant the right to assemble and to bargain collectively. Another group asked, “What is the role of investors in tech companies and airlines who are involved in immigrant surveillance?” And another dealt with the question “Who finances the harm?” Can the financial sector engage in pro-immigrant practices?
It was evident that this newer area of endeavor for ICCR, while complex and involving hard work, was well received by conference attendees ready to accept the challenge of engagement with companies on behalf of immigrants. In accord with a strong theme of the conference, it would be a collaborative effort with immigrants whose voices and experience would shape the efforts.
In February Seventh Generation hosted a very informative webinar, Immigration and the Shareholder. Check it out. https://seventhgenerationinterfaith.org/2018/02/17/sgi-webinar-recording-immigration-and-the-shareholder
Sister Ruth Battaglia is the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.