The strategies necessary to build state and local universal representation campaigns will vary based on the region’s demographics, politics, social justice nonprofit infrastructure, and other characteristics. Each campaign should map out its local context from the inception and be prepared to face its share of challenges as it moves forward.

Strong campaigns have several common building blocks, which may include the following:

  • designing a campaign strategy that includes core elements of grassroots organizing, advocacy, communications, policy advocacy, research, and lobbying;
  • convening a diverse intersectional coalition that centers the voices and experiences of directly impacted community members;
  • grounding the campaign in principles such as due process and dignity for all;
  • leading with values-based messaging;
  • maintaining clear, direct communication among members of the coalition;
  • working in conjunction with other connected campaigns for immigrant rights and racial justice;
  • engaging with media—including the use of social media—to shape the public narrative; and
  • using data, research, and personal stories to demonstrate the need for and impact of universal representation.

By using these tools strategically, coalitions can build the power needed to achieve—and eventually expand—universal representation programs while broadly advancing immigrant and racial justice.


The authors would like to thank the following expert reviewers for their thoughtful input regarding this report: Sara Cullinane at Make the Road New Jersey, Nicole Polley Miller at the American Friends Service Committee, and Monica Ruiz, MSW, at Casa San Jose.

The authors would also like to acknowledge the following people at the Vera Institute of Justice, Center for Popular Democracy, and National Immigration Law Center for offering additional feedback and expertise: Shaina Aber, Maggie Corser, Mary Crowley, Arisel Garcia, Emily Gordon, Liz Kenney, Shayna Kessler, Julio López Varona, Kica Matos, Anne Marie Mulcahy, Natalia Renta, Nina Siulc, and Ram Subramanian. Thanks also to Jules Verdone for editing, Michael Mehler and Dan Redding for design, and Tim Merrill for proofreading.