WASHINGTON - January 8 - Immigration reform is a long ignored crisis that demands urgent action. But President Bushs announcement today of his principles for immigration reform is a hollow promise for hardworking, undocumented workers, people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. and U.S. workers alike. It creates a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to fully participate in democracy. The plan deepens the potential for abuse and exploitation of these workers, while undermining wages and labor protections for all workers.
Despite an egregious history of failed temporary foreign worker programs in the United States that have hurt immigrant and domestic workers alike, the president proposes a new enlarged temporary worker program that will do nothing to strengthen protections for wages, benefits and other rights of immigrant and domestic workers. The presidents plan would formalize an even larger class of workers accorded only second tier status in American workplaces and will exacerbate the decline in job quality and job security for all workers.
The plan will serve large corporations needs over those of immigrant workers and their families.
Finally, the presidents plan neither supports nor encompasses existing bi-partisan legislation that would significantly improve the quality of life for immigrant workers and their families. These bills include the DREAM ACT, which would enable undocumented immigrant high school graduates to obtain a college education. In fact, the Presidents proposal does not address the issues of undocumented children at all. Nor does it address the AGJOBS agreement, which would provide earned legalization for some 500,000 agricultural farm workers, most of them from Mexico, currently living here.
Reforms to provide legal status to the millions of hardworking, undocumented workers living in this country must be comprehensive and fair. They cannot and should not be designed primarily to provide a steady stream of vulnerable workers for American companies. Instead, immigration reform must provide a certain path to legalization for workers from around the world who are already living and working in the United States; repeal and replace employer sanctions with stiffer penalties for employers who take advantage of workers immigration status to exploit them and undermine labor protections for all workers; reform, not expand, temporary worker programs; and reform the permanent immigration system so that those who want to reunite with their families and play by the rules are not penalized by unconscionably long waiting periods.
The union movement supports and will continue to fight for immigration reform that reflects these principles. Only in that manner can we as a nation provide a meaningful promise to immigrant workers now and in the future and safeguard basic rights and protections for all workers in the United States.