Economic and Social Justice 

When most people in the United States are asked about human rights, they talk of the right to vote and the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly. Many have defended these powerful freedoms on behalf of their country, their neighbors, and themselves. 

There are other rights declared in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that are not part of the human rights consciousness of most Americans. These include rights to adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, and even education. They also include rights related to social security, marriage and family, and labor union participation and working conditions. These are among the social, economic, and cultural rights identified in Articles 16 and 22-29 of the UDHR to which everyone is entitled, regardless of who you are or where you live. 

However, as we look across the globe, it is evident that we are far from achieving the goals of justice and human dignity for all. Yes, there have been popular movements towards democratization in many parts of the world, with elected leaders replacing dictators. Yes, there have been advances in education, health care, and sanitation. Nevertheless, among the 4.4 billion people who live in developing countries, three-fifths still have no access to basic sanitation, almost one-third are without safe drinking water, one-quarter lack adequate housing, one-fifth live beyond reach of modern health services, one-fifth of the children do not reach grade five in school, and one-fifth are undernourished.

Almost all of the world’s nations have indicated a commitment to achieving full economic, social, and cultural rights by agreeing to the United Nations’ international covenant on these rights. The United States has not; it appears unwilling to conduct the self-scrutiny that would be required.

Economic Justice 

The free trade agreements that the United States has authored (NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.) have done nothing to provide help to the other counties involved. Contrary to the promises, they have not provided benefits to the people involved in the other countries, and have not benefitted most people even within the United States. Even former President Clinton has now stated that NAFTA was a mistake. IFCLA has long been working to counter the effects of these agreements, particularly relating to Latin America. 

Some of the results of these agreements have been increased poverty in already poor countries and increased migrations as people try to find ways to survive. (See Immigration.) Further affects include such things as countries being sued for “lost potential profits” when foreign companies have been denied mining permits or when their profits did not meet expectations. 

The current attempt at another agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The agreement is being negotiated in secrecy and we only find out about it through leaks. 

As proposed, in one fell swoop, this secretive deal could: 
            * offshore millions of American jobs, 
            * jack up the cost of medicines, 
            * sneak in SOPA-like threats to Internet freedom, 
            * expose the U.S. to unsafe food and products, 
            * roll back Wall Street reforms,
            * ban Buy American policies needed to create green jobs, 
            * and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and inalienable. Therefore, the enhancement of all rights – civil, political, economic, social, and cultural – must be our goal.

Social Justice

Social justice is defined as "... promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity." It exists when "all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and a fair allocation of community resources." In conditions of social justice, people are "not be discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability, location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of background or group membership".

Social justice is generally equated with the notion of equality or equal opportunity in society. Although equality is undeniably part of social justice, the meaning of social justice is actually much broader. Further, "equal opportunity" and similar phrases such as "personal responsibility" have been used to diminish the prospective for realizing social justice by justifying enormous inequalities in modern society.

IFCLA's work for social justice fundamentally recognizes that helping one, helps everyone; and the policies that are tried out in Latin America are being brought to bear in this country also. Our work covers the spectrum of immigration in support of immigrants' rights and working for changes in immigration policy and procedures; to racial profiling dealing with latinos/as who are discriminated against and stopped without cause in various municipalities in the region, and has grown to include the community responses to Ferguson; to participating in efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, there continues to be work for us to do.


"Racial Profiling" refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime. Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown"), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband. 

Another example of racial profiling is the targeting, ongoing since the September 11th attacks, of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians for detention on minor immigrant violations in the absence of any connection to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Law enforcement agent includes a person acting in a policing capacity for public or private purposes. This includes security guards at department stores, airport security agents, police officers, or, more recently, airline pilots who have ordered passengers to disembark from flights, because the passengers' ethnicity aroused the pilots' suspicions. Members of each of these occupations have been accused of racial profiling. 

Racial profiling does not refer to the act of a law enforcement agent pursuing a suspect in which the specific description of the suspect includes race or ethnicity in combination with other identifying factors. 

Defining racial profiling as relying “solely” on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion can be problematic. This definition found in some state racial profiling laws is unacceptable, because it fails to include when police act on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion in combination with an alleged violation of all law. Under the “solely” definition, an officer who targeted Latino drivers who were speeding would not be racial profiling because the drivers were not stopped “solely” because of their race but also because they were speeding. This would eliminate the vast majority of racial profiling now occurring. 

Any definition of racial profiling must include, in addition to racially or ethnically discriminatory acts, discriminatory omissions on the part of law enforcement as well. For example, during the eras of lynching in the South in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's, southern sheriffs sat idly by while racists like the Ku Klux Klan terrorized African Americans. At times, the sheriffs would even release black suspects to the lynch mobs. A recent example would be the complaint by an African American man in Maryland, who after moving into a white community, was attacked and subjected to property damage. Local police failed to respond to his repeated complaints until they arrested him for shooting his gun into the air, trying to disperse a hostile mob outside his home. 

Many racial profiling victims walk away with traffic tickets, but too often for others the outcome of racial profiling is death. And although "Driving While Black/Brown" traffic stops and searches are the form of racial profiling that has received the most media attention, profiling takes place off the roadways as well. Black and Latino pedestrians are regularly stopped and frisked without reasonable cause. 

IFCLA's work on racial profiling began in conjunction with Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates (MIRA) and dealt with the abuses and discrimination occurring to latinos/as in the community of Saint Ann. (See Profiling) It has since broadened with other incidents in the region.


Food justice is a movement growing from the bottom up, from the farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples and landless workers most impacted by global hunger and poverty. Food justice goes well beyond ensuring that people have enough food to meet their physical needs. It asserts that people must reclaim their power in the food system by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those who eat. First framed by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina at the World Food Summit in 1996, food sovereignty is rooted in the ongoing global struggles over control of food, land, water, and livelihoods. 

As has become apparent in recent years, Big Food is making record profits, even as more and more people struggle to feed their families, family farmers struggle to stay on their land, and, globally, peasants and indigenous communities struggle against land grabs that threaten their livelihoods and even their lives. While corporations and governments profit from top-down, market-driven policy approaches, food sovereignty is an approach focused instead on people and communities. 

“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” – Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

IFCLA's work on food justice is carried out through our Fair Food Committee