The time is NOW for comprehensive immigration reform

President Obama stated his support for creating an immediate roadmap for earned citizenship in his State of the Union address on February 12. The 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the shadows deserve our support. Millions of these immigrants live in California – they are the friends, families, and neighbors of UDW members all over the state. Vulnerable immigrant workers often work for employers who exploit their undocumented status by paying low wages and providing poor working conditions. This exploitation lowers wages and working conditions for all workers and threatens middle class security and growth. Join UDW in supporting AFSCME’s priorities for comprehensive immigration reform in the coming months.

BACKGROUND

Our immigration system is broken.

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows who have no path available to them to become American citizens. Both native and immigrant workers are harmed by the status quo. Vulnerable immigrant workers are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who exploit their undocumented status by paying low wages and providing poor working conditions. This ability to exploit immigrants lowers wages and workplace standards for all workers and threatens middle class security and growth.

Guest worker programs exacerbate the harm to both native born and immigrant workers. The number and types of temporary worker visas issued to employers are not based on actual labor market shortages, depriving U.S. workers of jobs. And, many foreign labor recruiters and U.S. employers exploit foreign workers by failing to keep promises made on wages, hours, living conditions and working conditions, sometimes sinking to the level of human trafficking.

Now is the time to seize the moment and pass comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) in the coming months. President Obama has stated his commitment to work with Congress to enact legislation that includes a road map to earned citizenship for the undocumented immigrants living in our country, protects U.S. workers’ employment opportunities, and guarantees immigrant workers the same workplace rights and protections all workers deserve. The bi-partisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform released by eight senators contains many similar principles.

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Next Steps for Achieving Comprehensive Immigration Reform

A comprehensive immigration reform bill will go through “regular order” in Congress with committee hearings and bill writing, amendments, and votes on final passage. Hearings will begin in early February, a bill could be released by the end of March and votes in both houses of Congress could be held as early as June. This timetable, if adhered to, would put a CIR bill on schedule to reach final passage before Congress’ August recess.

AFSCME’s Priorities

  • We urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes an immediate roadmap for earned citizenship, ensures that everyone plays by the same rules, bases any future temporary work visas on visas on verifiable labor shortages, and includes strong protections for all workers.
  • Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants should be able to begin the process of becoming citizens as soon as CIR becomes law; this should not be contingent upon new enforcement measures. The requirements for attaining temporary legal status, a green card and ultimately citizenship should not exclude immigrants who do not have access to employment verification due to working in the underground economy, misclassification as independent contractors and similar constraints. We urge Congress to include an expedited path to citizenship for DREAMers, those young people brought to our country as children who serve in the military or pursue higher education.
  • Congress should reform, not expand, temporary worker visa programs. CIR must protect the employment rights of workers, U.S. and foreign, in its policies for the “future flow” of immigrant workers. Congress should establish all independent commission that would base the number of foreign temporary workers on updated and reliable labor market data rather than employers’ desires and politics. In assessing labor shortages, the commission should be required to examine the impact of immigration on the economy, wages, the workforce and business. And, once they are in America, foreign workers must be afforded the same wages and employment rights as native workers.
  • Congress should strengthen immigrant families in comprehensive immigration reform. Through the family unification visa program, CIR should facilitate keeping together and reuniting immigrant families. CIR should treat families with same-sex partners the same as any other families seeking and attaining family-sponsored visas.
  • Congress should ensure that any employment verification system is reliable. The current voluntary E-Verify system is rife with inaccuracies that have resulted in U.S. citizens and work-authorized immigrants losing wages and sometimes their jobs. Any employment verification system in CIR should be phased in carefully over a number of years while it is tested for accuracy.
  • Congress should recognize the strong emphasis the Obama Administration bas
    already put on enforcement of immigration laws and border security.
    Last year, the Obama Administration spent $18 billion on immigration control, 24% more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. It also deported nearly 410,000 people last year, which is an all-time record. Border enforcement moving forward should be rational, humane and respect due process rights.

Also see AFSCME Press Release

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Paid for by United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund, sponsored by United Domestic Workers of America. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

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