Tearing Down Walls, Lifting Up Justice for 35 years

In 1986, a diverse group of grassroots community groups and faith, labor and civil rights leaders who met during the campaign for immigration reform—that would eventually give us the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, or IRCA—formed the National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights. While the compromise bill provided welcome legalization for millions of undocumented, it also set in place the criminalization of undocumented immigrant workers and the growing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, that we have continued to fight ever since. 

At the time, our movement also worked on the refugee issues of the day: hundreds of thousands of Central American and Haitian refugees fleeing repression, war and violence in their homelands. And so we became the network for “immigrant and refugee” rights.

From the onset we were grounded in the defense of the rights of all immigrants and refugees, giving rise to a mission statement that unequivocally stated:

We work to promote a just immigration and refugee policy in the United States and to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status. The National Network bases its efforts in the principles of equality and justice, and seeks the enfranchisement of all immigrant and refugee communities in the United States through organizing and advocating for their full labor, environmental, civil and human rights.

We were also very clear that immigration and immigration policy were not just “domestic” issues, but were framed and affected by global geo-politics:

We further recognize the unparalleled change in global political and economic structures which has exacerbated regional, national and international patterns of migration and emphasize the need to build international support and cooperation to strengthen the rights, welfare and safety of migrants and refugees.

While we have revisited our Mission Statement several times over the years, these core elements have remained in place and our program, which has evolved over the years, continue to reflect this mission.

NNIRR is values-driven. We are centered by a human rights framework, respect and support for migrant leadership, and the commitment to challenge racism and xenophobia in all its manifestations. We take action with global partners to build a strong international migrants’ rights movement.

35+ years is a long time, but we continue to be inspired by the collective commitment of groups and individuals who have travelled this road with us. It certainly hasn’t been easy; these are values and tasks that are typically not “popular” or “fundable”, and progress is often slow. Yet, we have every basis to remain hopeful and determined, and we recommit ourselves to take on the daunting challenges in the days, months, and years to come. In the Looking Forward pages of this commemorative program we describe some of these challenges—and what we plan to do to continue tearing down walls (physical, political and ideological) and lifting up justice for ALL.

Dream Rise & Organize NNIRR Guiding Principles for 2021

2021 Report

2020 Report

2019 Report

2018 Report

2017 Report

For a succinct summary of NNIRR’s first 30 years click here

  • To view our 30th Anniversary photos on our Facebook page, click here. Photos courtesy of talented movement photographer, Brooke Anderson.
  • To read our 30th Anniversary program, designed by Guillermo Prado at 8point2.com design, click here
  • To view photos of NNIRR over the years on our Facebook page, click here.

We invite you to continue with us on this journey.

Join NNIRR today and consider donating to our work for immigrant right

NNIRR in action over the years...