The issue of immigration is not a new one. Many states have been pushing for immigration reform for decades. Some have been working to make the system better, while others are trying to push immigrants out the door.
The fact is that the majority of Americans are decedents of immigrants. For hundreds of years the United States had an open door policy and welcomed immigrants from around the world with open arms. I myself am the third generation of Irish-Polish immigrants. My great-grandparents were all born and raised in different areas of Boston after their parents came to America in search of the American Dream.
Today President Obama vocalized his new plan for comprehensive immigration reform. It calls for:
- Continuing to Strengthen Border Security.
- Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers.
- Earned Citizenship.
- Streamlining Legal Immigration.
President Obama delivered this speech along side leaders from many different unions including Richard L. Trumka, AFL-CIO President; UNITE HERE President D. Taylor; Bob King, UAW President; Secretary Treasurer Culinary Local 226, and many more.
For many years immigrants like my grandparents relied on their unions to move up to the middle class. After gaining citizenship, labor unions helped these immigrant workers find meaningful employment and provided them with a living wage.
After the President’s speech Richard Trumka released this statement:
“President Barack Obama was elected this fall with several mandates, but voters spoke with particular clarity on one issue: the need to support the aspiration of 11 million immigrants to become citizens.That’s why we applaud President Obama’s eloquent and thoughtful embrace of immigration reform, including a viable path to citizenship for those who are American in every way except on paper.”
“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.”
This statement was echoed by other labor organizations. The Communication Workers of America stated;
“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.”
The United Auto Workers also stated;
“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.”
The goal of this new immigration policy is to ignite the belief in the American Dream. Many of these immigrants come here with a few skills and boatloads of drive and determination. They are hard workers and help to build our economy. Unite HERE represents many of these types of workers in the hotel industry. They represent housekeepers, and dishwashers for example. These are prime jobs for new immigrants.
Unite HERE’s statement;
“UNITE HERE is proud to stand with President Obama and the movement for equality for immigrant workers in our country. The hundreds of thousands of women and men who are our members and future members come from all over the United States and the world. Through the work they do every day–making beds, preparing food, cleaning rooms, washing dishes, serving travelers–they keep our economy moving and build stable lives for themselves and their families. Like all Americans, they hope for secure and happy lives for their children. And those who are immigrants dream of achieving citizenship so that they can be full and equal participants in our society. “
By working together with new comprehensive immigration reform we can work to eliminate the ilegal operation of paying workers ‘under the table’ to avoid labor laws. Allowing these nearly 11 million undocumented workers to gain citizenship we will add more people to the tax base and increase revenue. We will also help these immigrants realize the dream that brought them to the United States in the first place.