Building Worker’s Strength with Comprehensive Immigration Reform
As we face the most serious recession since the Great Depression–as healthcare costs skyrocket, income disparity grows, and the middle class continues to shrink–the American public wants fundamental reform of economic and social policies that have benefited a lucky few at the expense of the majority. Immigration reform is no exception. After years of failed piecemeal solutions and enforcement-only traps and tragedies, we face an unprecedented opportunity to re-build our immigration system so that it honors our values, strengthens our economy, supports working families, and restores the rule of law for the long-term.
Our Immigration System is Broken and Hurts all Workers:
• As U.S. workers struggle in today’s economy, it is clear that we cannot reclaim the American Dream for workers until we eliminate our two tiered labor force and pass comprehensive reforms that build the strength and unity of all working people. As long as unscrupulous employers have the ability to exploit workers because they lack legal status, the current system will continue to drive down wages and breed divisions in workplaces and in our communities.
• The problem is not immigrants; the problem is our broken immigration system. An immigration system that lacks legal channels for worker to fill available jobs is just like a financial market lacking adequate regulation: a catastrophe waiting to happen. Our economy–indeed our society–has grown dependent on the labor of undocumented immigrant workers who are vulnerable to exploitation and live in constant fear of deportation.
Comprehensive Reform is the Only Way to End Illegal Immigration:
• The only way to ensure that every job in this country is filled by a legal permanent resident is to get undocumented immigrants out of the underground economy, into the system and under the rule of law. A united workforce will rise together: building the strength of working people and guaranteeing civil rights and basic fairness for all workers–no matter where they come from.
• It is unacceptable to live in a country where millions of workers are living in shadows, outside of the rule of law. We must require immigrants to get into the system–pass background checks, pay fines, learn English, get on the tax rolls, and become U.S. citizens. This is not amnesty; it is the only smart, practical way to drain the pool of easily exploited labor and stop big business’ high profit, low-wage model.
Uniting Native-Born and Immigrant Workers will Raise Working Standards for All:
• One clear lesson emerges from the history of working people in America: workers win when unions are inclusive and use their strength to reach out to the unorganized, and unions loose when they do not.
• Immigrants are not a threat to native workers’ wages; the problem is our broken immigration laws allow big business, and its low-wage high profit model, to exploit workers who lack legal status. Once we get undocumented workers into the legal system, we can build a united movement of working people, equipped to fight the corporate greed that has driven down wages for all working people in America.
• Our choice is clear. United we stand; divided we fail. It’s time to eliminate the second class workforce, unite all working people, and replace our current regime of employer sanctions with vigorous labor and civil rights protections that will raise living standards for all workers.
Today’s Costly Enforcement without Reform Approach Does Not Work:
Enforcement without reform has been tried for decades with dismal results. Instead of solving problems, it only succeeds in marginalizing immigrant communities and degrading the quality of life for the rest of us.
• At a time of skyrocketing U.S. deficit and while the Department of Homeland Security is more stretched than ever, we are throwing away billions of taxpayer dollars on border and workplace enforcement policies that have failed again and again.
• Estimated to cost well over $200 billion, it is neither desirable nor feasible to deport 12 million people living and working in our communities. These costly policies just breed fear and misery, devastate local communities and distract us from the larger goal of finding a comprehensive and practical solution to immigration reform.
• Throwing More Money at Virtual Border Fence is like Throwing Money in the Trash. Since 1986, we’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars militarizing the U.S. Mexico border, but our success at apprehensions has gone down.
Employment Verification Without Reform will Wreak Havoc on our Workplaces:
• Efforts to verify workers’ status in the workplace–such as E-verify–will lead to unfair firings, racial profiling, and enormous discrimination of workers, regardless of their lawful status. It will also push workers further into the underground economy, eroding wages for all workers.
• The Social Security Administration’s own internal reports suggest that through E-Verify as many as 3.6 million workers a year will be misidentified as not authorized for employment–which could lead to mass layoffs and confusion for U.S. workers at a time when they are already struggling to stay afloat.
• Worksite verification without comprehensive reform will push undocumented immigrants out of the legitimate taxed economy and into the underground cash economy. It will harm those employers that play by the rules and benefit abusive employers who continue to push down wages and working conditions for all workers.
• SEIU encourages Congressional leaders to fix today’s flawed worksite enforcement models by scrubbing the database, offering real protections for workers who face discrimination, and prioritizing crack downs on employers who break labor laws. Done alongside comprehensive reforms, an effective employment verification system will ensure that every worker is in the system, paying taxes, and protected by equal labor rights.
Anti-Immigrant Policies are NOT Consistent with American Values:
• Crude attempts to shut down our border and round up anyone who looks a certain way do not begin to solve our broken immigration system. These policies are driven by nativism, hate, and fear–not the values of pragmatism, fairness, and inclusion that have made America strong.
• Instead of ripping apart families and destroying local economies, our government should focus on fixing the root causes of our broken immigration system. Our immigration problems will not go away until we find a fair and practical way to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, and create legal channels for much-needed immigrant workers to come here in the future. The alternative – punitive attacks, family destruction, and harassment without hope – is shameful and fundamentally un-American.
• Americans are fair, Americans believe in order, and Americans are pragmatic–we need to bring these values to the table while we develop a comprehensive strategy to fixing our broken immigration system. It’s time to replace angry political bickering with real solutions. Immigrants work hard, pay taxes, sacrifice for their families, want to learn English, and believe in the American Dream.