Labor Leaders Welcome President Obama's Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Last week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks in Las Vegas about fixing the broken immigration system so that it is fairer and helps grow the middle class by ensuring everyone plays by the same rules.

"I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long." President Obama said. "I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”

President Obama's proposal for immigration reform has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

In response to the President’s remarks, a number of organizations that advocate for working people across the nation issued statements applauding the President for his leadership.  Here are a few of those statements:

AFL-CIO

“In a phrase, President Obama “gets it” – he gets that a rising tide lifts all boats and that empowering immigrant workers is a win for all working people. The President clearly shares the AFL-CIO’s commitment to a viable pathway to citizenship, meaning that seemingly innocuous conditions cannot be allowed to get in the way of a roadmap for citizenship that encompasses the dreams of 11 million people.

President Obama’s leadership, and the bipartisan Senate group which announced its reform principles yesterday, makes us hopeful that 2013 will be the year in which the United States finally builds a working immigration system.”

Service Employees International Union

“As President Obama asked for our votes last year, he promised to act on commonsense immigration reform, and now he is keeping his word. He is to be congratulated for taking on an issue that, only a year ago, was considered a political nonstarter on Capitol Hill even though the American public has long favored commonsense reform.

“President Obama’s words today were a profound reminder that our greatness as a nation comes from the people who built it, the workers who sustain it, and our children who will be our future leaders, engineers, teachers and military service members, regardless of their country of origin or ancestry.”

United Farm Workers

“We join President Obama in being encouraged by the bipartisan framework outlined by the senators on Monday. Yet we also applaud the President’s vow that if Congress does not act in short order, he will move forward with his own bill based on the principles he has outlined, and insist on a vote.”

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

“I commend the President for taking these steps to ensure that workers, no matter where they come from, enjoy the protections they deserve in the workplace. We have seen far too many employers threaten with deportation workers who speak out for just treatment on the job.”

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

“I agree with President Obama—the time to reform our broken immigration system is now. The plan unveiled yesterday by a bipartisan group of Senators is a good start and they should get to work right away drafting legislation. The UFCW strongly supports comprehensive immigration reform that treats all immigrants with respect and dignity and creates a modern, 21st century system that reflects our values.”

Communication Workers of America

“The Communications Workers of America commends the Obama administration on its determination to create a path to citizenship for 11 million adults and their children who contribute to the economic life of our nation every day.”

United Auto Workers

“The UAW applauds President Obama for setting out a constructive framework for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.“

"Our country's immigration system is broken.  Without a pathway to citizenship, millions of workers are forced into a shadow economy and exploited by unscrupulous employers," said UAW President Bob King. "That drives down wages and working conditions for all workers, and puts employers who want to do the right thing at a competitive disadvantage. It's past time to lift the fear of deportation for individuals who are contributing to our country."

Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO

"The President today unveiled his priorities in achieving comprehensive immigration reform and we applaud his leadership.  His proposal appropriately emphasizes creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, strengthening border and interior enforcement mechanisms and recognizes the economic implications of inaction.”

Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA)

 “It is encouraging to see the President and Senators from both parties working together in support of comprehensive immigration reform. I look forward to working with the White House and policymakers from both parties to achieve true immigration reform that strengthens our nation and enables millions of undocumented workers to step out of the shadows and into the American workforce.”

“LIUNA believes in establishing a clear path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States who have violated no law other than their lack of documentation. Our current immigration policy leaves far too many undocumented workers vulnerable to employer pressure and permits wholesale worker exploitation that drives down wages and corrodes working conditions for all similarly employed workers - citizens and immigrants alike.”

United Steelworkers

“We commend both the President and Congress for making it a priority to address this issue in a meaningful manner.

A major challenge is fairly handling the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already part of the fabric of our society.  As long as undocumented workers remain in the shadows, they can be unjustly exploited by employers in that they can be subject to wages theft, unsafe working conditions and denied other basic protections under the law.”

American Federation of Teachers

“The time for immigration reform is long overdue, and we applaud the president today for proposing a commonsense, compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform plan that provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the United States. The president’s blueprint for reform, and the U.S. Senate bipartisan framework, shows an understanding that our nation has always been enriched by immigrants and strengthened by the diversity they bring. His proposal strengthens our borders, ensures immigrant children can go to school without fear, keeps families together, and promotes safe and secure jobs for all workers. His continued support of the Dream Act gives dreamers the chance to dream by giving hard-working students who play by the rules an opportunity to pursue a college degree.”

AFSCME

“We applaud President Obama. Due to his leadership and the framework released yesterday by a bipartisan group of senators, comprehensive immigration reform is now a real possibility.

“Immigrant rights are worker rights, and AFSCME will be on the frontlines of the march toward comprehensive immigration reform. We know that real reform will bring a fair path to citizenship and protection of jobs and job opportunities for all workers in our country.

National Education Association

“On behalf of the more than 3 million members of NEA, we welcome President Barack Obama’s vision to continue moving comprehensive immigration reform forward. As educators, we have witnessed for far too long the impact that the current immigration system has had on our students, their families, and our communities. We join the growing chorus of voices calling on lawmakers to create a common-sense immigration process for aspiring Americans, one that includes a roadmap for new Americans to become citizens.

“We are pleased that the vision that President Obama outlined reflects our values and our rich tradition of embracing people who move to make life better for themselves and their families. We see them every day in our classrooms, schools, and our communities. They are our students, friends, and our neighbors. They move to put food on the table, to provide for their families, or for the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country. And we are all better for having hardworking new immigrants as contributing members of our communities.

For more information:

Nate Tamrin is the Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement
Related Topics: Immigration
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