The Immigrant Worker Project works in various areas to advocate for, empower, and support immigrant communities in ways that best adhere to the hopes and needs of the community. With our work, we strive to achieve legal, political, social justice, create greater dialogue, and imagine futures of greater opportunities and possibilities.
A guiding principle of IWP is political and social advocacy and reform in partnership with various local and national organizations. Within the larger fight for justice, IWP ensures that immigrant workers and migrants are not only at the forefront of the struggle for immigration reform, but also shape the advocacy and ally work of IWP.
IWP has undertaken various activities to advocate for migrants’ rights to a driver’s license, to fight against racial profiling by border patrol, champion workplace justice, and ensure rights to education are respected. Currently, IWP works with faith-based community organizations to build ongoing solutions to pressing issues with both the immigrant community and the larger community.
IWP works to build a sense of belonging, community, and dignity by recognizing and upholding the importance of community and culture in everyday life. In collaboration with the immigrant community, IWP helps create community art projects and events to generate conversation and appreciation of food, music, and people as well as build community and imagine new futures. IWP participates in an annual Three Kings’ Day celebrations, cultural celebrations, and community art and musical events, including past events with the musical groups Chuy Negrete and Inti Illimani, with dance troupe Grupo Tepchuani Nelli, artists murals, and alfombras.
The organization also supports and guides the AMIGAS project, a group for women to build networks of support as they make artisanal jewelry.
The educational principles of IWP are guided by the work of Paulo Freire, who emphasized the importance of establishing a learning environment that reflects that social environment of students. IWP has created and has supported numerous English Language Learning programs throughout Ohio. By working with students and listening to their needs, IWP has expanded access to interpretations services. Within Stark and neighboring counties, IWP has created a Youth Ambassador Program to assist high school students or recent graduates apply to college and navigate the financial aid and scholarship process. The Youth Ambassador Program provides students with the training needed to become community leaders, work with other students in their schools or communities, and undertake community service projects.
IWP works to ensure the rights of the immigrant community are recognized and upheld. The organization works with community groups, engages legal mechanisms, and utilizes social services to accomplish this key goal. IWP believes that all actions must be done in mutual collaboration with community members.
In response to the legal needs of the immigrant community, IWP provides and works with various immigration attorneys to provide pro-bono and low-cost legal representation. Since 2009, IWP has worked with more than 1,400 unaccompanied children and 500 family detainees in immigration proceedings. IWP also emphasizes community engaged learning, and frequently holds “Know Your Rights” workshops and events to answer rights-related questions from the community. When necessary, IWP pursues legal action to protect immigrant rights, which has included a racial profiling lawsuit aganist Border Patrol.
IWP and our community partners work to address the lack of interpretation services in the legal system, hospitals, and social agencies throughout Ohio. IWP works with a large indigenous community from Central America and Mexico who speak several Mayan languages for which interpretation services are provided. Within the legal realm, IWP provides interpretations in Ixil and K’iche to ensure our members and wider community understand legal processes and their rights. IWP also works with other institutions to highlight the need for adequate interpretation and to provide these needed and required services to the community.
The work of IWP is guided and shaped by the immigrant community which requires the active involvement of community leaders. IWP collaborates with community leaders on short- and long-term projects and on the immediate needs of the community. Within this mutual relationship, IWP works with leaders to develop key leadership skills for community and social organizing and non-profit work. Currently, over 80% of the IWP Board consists of immigrant workers from across the state.
IWP seeks to identify future community leaders by working with youth and young adult leaders. These individuals have and will continue to have a significant role in the community. IWP ensures such leaders are involved in many activities and functions of the organization from recruiting for events and leading English-language classes to developing social organizing and advocacy skills.
The organization was founded as a result of the initial study of the rural immigrant population in Ohio in 2009. Over the past 20 years, IWP has conducted smaller, geographic-specific studies to better comprehend the changing dynamics of the immigrant community. IWP works to create more awareness of the specific demands, needs, and overall situation of the immigrant community in Ohio as well as encourages any resident or student in Ohio to learn more and support the immigrant community. Recently, IWP has partnered with Ohio colleges and universities, including Denison University, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, and the College of Wooster, to conduct a statewide survey and interview projects to address the lack of information and understanding for immigrants in rural Ohio. IWP has also assisted in community-based, faith-based, and international rights-based projects as well as worked with individual scholars on a variety of publications.
IWP strives to create just and non-discriminatory environments for immigrant workers. IWP has been able to establish fair relationships with many employers working with their staff to interpret for new workers and holding mediation sessions when problems occur. When employers exploit immigrants’ vulnerable situation, IWP advocates to ensure workplace rights are upheld, which includes collaborating on unionization campaigns. IWP works to inform workers of their rights to compensation for work-related injuries regardless of immigration status. IWP has been able to provide legal counsel for wage and hour claims as well as discrimination and workers’ compensation cases.