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JANUARY 19, 2006
9:24 AM

CONTACT: Service Employees International Union
Avril Smith, 202-730-7480

Statement from SEIU President Andy Stern Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON - January 19 - For generations, our immigrant grandparents, parents and today’s new immigrants have come to our shores expecting to work hard, pay taxes, and have their work valued and rewarded.  We boast appropriately to the world about the promise of the American Dream.

“Today’s immigrants and their families who help build, clean, feed and care for our country share that Dream. Because they know that in America, we believe that it’s the contribution you make that matters, not what country you are originally from.

“Unfortunately, today our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. The problem is not immigrants or immigration but our laws.

“The current system is outdated and unenforceable and we’ve lost control of our borders. There is no path to citizenship for those who work hard, pay taxes and want a chance to obtain the American Dream.

“Our laws provide few orderly, legal channels to work in this country. This drives many immigrants and their families into treacherous pathways to this country and then into the underground economy.

“An underground economy – where workers have little protection and work for substandard pay in hazardous conditions – undermines standards for all workers in this country and breeds division in workplaces and in our communities.”

“Today we are standing shoulder to shoulder with business leaders to call for comprehensive immigration reform that is built from the best of our nation’s traditions and values and reflects today’s reality, not election year rhetoric.

“We are calling on Congress to do what Americans expect of their leaders – to work together in a bi-partisan fashion to thoughtfully fix our broken immigration system in a way that reaffirms and respects the American Dream, protects every worker and makes our country more secure.

“We support comprehensive reform that creates order, takes control of our borders and channels new immigrants through the American legal system.

“By establishing a legal, orderly process, we can bring immigrant workers in this country out of the shadows and under our laws, connect those workers with willing employers and allow our overburdened law enforcement and border patrol to focus on protecting Americans from those who might do us harm.

“Comprehensive reform means ensuring that all workers’ rights are protected so we can raise standards for everyone. And it means protecting law-abiding employers from unscrupulous competitors who exploit workers to gain an unfair advantage.

“Comprehensive reform must also embrace Americans’ family values by addressing the family backlog that is dividing immigrant families.

“When we fix our broken immigration system in a comprehensive way, we will be living up to our highest ideals as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”


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