The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has spearheaded a group of more than sixty institutional investors who are demanding comprehensive reform of America's broken immigration system. These institutional investors, representing more than $145 billion in assets, are asking chief executive officers (CEOs) of leading companies in the United States to speak out for immigration policy reform and to say that repairing our current immigration system is an economic and human rights imperative.
This effort was proposed and initiated by UUA Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tim Brennan. Along with UUA, other leaders of the initiative include Heidi Soumerai of Walden Asset Management, Susan Makos of Mercy Investment Services, Inc., Dawn Wolfe of Boston Common Asset Management, and John Liu, Comptroller for the City of New York.
In a political climate marked by growing anti-immigrant rhetoric, the UUA and its fellow investors hope to interject a reasonable voice into the immigration debate. They cite the need for corporate leaders to support and protect the labor force on which they rely, and to speak out against exploitation and abuse of workers in industries that rely heavily on immigrants.
To achieve their goal, the group has contacted CEOs of major American corporations to advocate for a balanced approach to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship and increased opportunities for immigrants to enter the US workforce. Signatories point out that this initiative is grounded in the desire for social justice and includes strong interfaith cooperation, while also focusing on their fiduciary responsibility.
"Regardless of our faith affiliation, we all share a moral responsibility to stop the suffering caused by the current immigration policy, especially to families," says Brennan, "and as members of the investment community, we know the path to economic prosperity lies ultimately with the humane treatment of our workers."
Despite their contributions to American society, all immigrants are at risk as a result of the current inflammatory rhetoric that engenders discrimination and incites violence. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights suggests that an alarming escalation of hate crimes against Hispanics through 2007 appears to correlate with the debate on immigration reform.
As of March 2009, there were an estimated 5 million children in the U.S. who either were undocumented immigrants themselves or were born in the U.S. with at least one undocumented immigrant parent. These children are extremely vulnerable to policies that could permanently separate their families. Moreover, the fear of exposure keeps undocumented workers, who are disproportionately represented in low-wage occupations, especially vulnerable to unscrupulous employers who can violate wage, safety, and discrimination laws with impunity.
"We know achieving justice in immigration reform will be challenging," says Brennan. "But I am honored to represent the UUA in this effort, which is so clearly grounded in our principles and social justice work."