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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Immigration rally Nashua 4-6-13 (credit Arnie Alpert)

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

AFT’s Weingarten: Obama’s Action Reunites Families, Brings Workers Out of the Shadows

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT_Logo-2

WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s executive order that expands protections to millions of undocumented immigrants:

“As a union, we’ve always been committed to opening the doors of opportunity for all children, and immigration is an issue that touches every community we serve. After the House of Representatives refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform, although the Senate had passed bipartisan legislation, President Obama—as he did with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as many of his predecessors have done—is using his legal authority to secure our nation’s borders, to help keep families together and to expand our economy.

“A great and diverse nation, founded by immigrants seeking a safer, more prosperous life, continues to deliver the promise of the American dream. Yet our broken immigration system has hurt millions of students and families. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories of kids who don’t know if their parents are coming home or have been deported. We hear from teachers whose students stop showing up for school after their parents are sent to a country these children have never called home. Our nation’s children are counting on us. We must unite, not divide, families. The president’s plan will give many of these families the security of knowing they can stay together, and it will bring many workers out of the shadow economy, ensuring higher wages for all. We remain eager for Congress—especially the Republican-controlled House—to take legislative action and show unity on an issue so personal to American families.”

What NAFTA Foretells For New Proposed Trade Deal (InZane Times)

NAFTA

My colleague Gabriel Camacho and I wrote this a year ago, timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  With President Obama in China touting a new “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this seemed like a good time to re-post it here.  The original article was published in the NH Business Review.

NAFTA

In the twenty years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, millions of Mexicans have been pushed by NAFTA to make the dangerous journey across the border into the United States, many without legal authorization. The U.S. government has responded by turning the border into a militarized zone, jailing hundreds of thousands of people, and deporting record numbers back across the border.

Militarization of the border began in 1994 with Operation Gatekeeper, which erected fencing, walls, and other barriers between San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico, forcing migrants into dangerous desert terrain.stop corporate rule

This was not supposed to happen.

According to NAFTA’s backers, the agreement was supposed to promote prosperity in both countries and actually reduce the pressure to migrate.

President Bill Clinton asserted NAFTA would give Mexicans “more disposable income to buy more American products and there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.”

Mexico’s former President, Carlos Salinas, offered a similar opinion: NAFTA would enable Mexico to “export jobs, not people,” he said in a 1991 White House news conference alongside President George H. W. Bush.

William A. Ormes wrote in Foreign Affairs that NAFTA would “narrow the gap between U.S. and Mexican wage rates, reducing the incentive to immigrate.”

So what happened? As a precondition for NAFTA, the U.S. demanded drops in Mexican price supports for small farmers. The agreement itself reduced Mexican tariffs on American products. These changes meant that millions of Mexico’s small farmers – many of them from indigenous communities – could not compete with the highly subsidized corn grown by U.S. agribusiness that flooded the local Mexican market.

Dislodged from the places where their families had lived for generations, many people did in fact seek employment in export-oriented factories and farms. But there were too few jobs to go around, and those jobs that were created did not generate the “disposable income” President Clinton had promised.

A 2008 report on “NAFTA’s Promise and Reality” from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded that while half a million manufacturing jobs were created in Mexico from 1994 to 2002, nearly three times as many farm jobs were destroyed.

As for Mexican wages, they went down, not up, during the same period. “Despite predictions to the contrary, Mexican wages have not converged with U.S. wages,” Carnegie observed.

Unable to earn a living at home or elsewhere in their own country, Mexicans did what people have done for ages; they packed their bags and headed for places where they thought they could find employment.

The experts shaping NAFTA knew that the deal would disrupt the Mexican agricultural sector. That’s why Operation Gatekeeper was implemented the same year as NAFTA. It’s impossible to integrate national economies without disrupting local ones – something that should give pause to those proposing new trade agreements today. The realities of NAFTA should not be replicated.

As the American Friends Service Committee outlines in “A New Path Toward Humane Immigration Policy,” the U.S. should advance economic policies that reduce forced migration and emphasize sustainable development. Instead of policies like NAFTA that elevate rights of transnational corporations above those of people, we need alternative forms of economic integration that are consistent with international human rights laws, cultural and labor rights, and environmental protections.

Modern-day free trade agreements are basically arrangements that take rights away from citizens and bestow expansive benefits to multi-national corporations.

Workers on both sides of the border have one thing in common: they need the ability to organize for higher wages and decent working conditions. Without the opportunity for workers to benefit from the rewards agreements like NAFTA generate for corporations, “free trade” becomes just another driver of the widening gap between the ultra-rich and everyone else.

With the Obama administration pushing hard to create a new arrangement linking the economies of eleven Pacific rim countries, and another that ties the U.S. economy to that of the European Union, it’s time for a new path.

In Case You Don’t Remember: The Republicans Have a “Jobs Plan”

GOP Jobs Plan

Haven’t read this morning’s New York Times? Here’s what you’re missing:

WASHINGTON — Anticipating a takeover of Congress, Republicans have assembled an economic agenda that reflects their small-government, antiregulation philosophy… The proposals would mainly benefit energy industries, reduce taxes and regulations for businesses generally, and continue the attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a mix that leaves many economists, including several conservatives, underwhelmed.

What’s on the list?


View Fraccidents Map in a larger map

What’s not on the list?

  • Fixing our roads and bridges (even though more than 177,000 bridges around the country are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete)
  • Overhauling immigration laws (maybe Fox News and the Tea Party think xenophobia is good for the country)

Look again, at that last omission from the Republicans’ “Jobs Plan.”

A bipartisan Senate-passed bill on immigration would increase economic growth by 3.3 percent in a decade and save $175 billion by then, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.

Look again, at what could have been… if only the GOP hadn’t been so determined to stop anything and everything President Obama proposed.

When Mr. Obama sent Congress his jobs package three years ago, several forecasting firms estimated that it could add up to 150,000 jobs a month in the first year.

(Read about the Senate GOP filibuster here.)

Then, remember that the GOP’s opposition started on the first day of Obama’s first term.

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

And then, think about what this “GOP Jobs Plan” is really all about.

GOP Jobs Plan

Nashua Locals Hold “A Vigil for Tolerance, Acceptance and Welcoming”

Vigil 2

This week, I had the privilege of helping to organize and attend a great event in Nashua. The vigil was to show support for all of the refugees and immigrants coming to New Hampshire and many of our southern states.

Over the past few months, a group led by Jerry Delemus and the “912 project” have been traveling around our state, opposing immigration reform and using the thousands of child refugees as a backdrop to promote their hate-filled agenda.

After seeing their gathering on the Exit 6 overpass on one Saturday afternoon, I was personally outraged. Yes, there is a lot of political controversy surrounding the unaccompanied minors at the US border. But these children are not coming to America as immigrants – they are surrendering themselves to US Border agents as refugees from war torn countries, where oppressive governments and gangs are literally murdering children in the streets.

The sad fact is that some of these children are killed within a week of being deported back to their home country.

I connected with Representative Sylvia Gale (Nashua Ward 1) who gathered a group of immigration advocates to organize an event to show that real Granite Staters are not bigots using children for political purposes – but that, instead, we are a truly welcoming community.

 

The Vigil for Tolerance, Acceptance and Welcoming

Vigil 8

At the vigil, guests were asked to leave their own message on the sign.

“Bring us your tired…Your poor…Your huddled masses yearning to be free”
— Emma Lazarus

These are the immortal words inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. For many immigrants, like my great-grandparents, the Statue of Liberty symbolizes that America is truly a welcoming country.   No matter where you come from, or why you chose to come here, the United States welcomes you to seek your own version of the American Dream.

Around 50-60 people gathered on the steps of Nashua’s City Hall, directly under the ever-waving State of New Hampshire flag, to let the people of Nashua’s bustling downtown area know that we are tolerant and welcoming.

Rev. Bertha Perkins of the New Fellowship Baptist Church

Rev. Bertha Perkins of the New Fellowship Baptist Church

The plaza was filled with a variety of people including labor leaders, immigration activists, and elected representatives. Dozens of people came with their own hand-made signs with phases like, “No human is illegal” and “Immigration rights are civil rights”.

The vigil was opened with a prayer from Rev. Bertha Perkins of the New Fellowship Baptist Church.   She talked about how “God made us all in his own image” and that we are all humans.

Rep Sylvia Gale

Rep. Sylvia Gale

Rep Sylvia Gale gave a wonderful speech explaining why we need to show that New Hampshire and the United States are open and welcoming.

We will raise our voices so that all will know that here in Greater Nashua, here in the State of New Hampshire, and that all throughout this land we embrace and celebrate our differences. From Portland, Maine, to Maricopa County, Arizona, to Ferguson, Missouri, to Murietta, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to Miami, Florida, and beyond, from border to border, and from sea to shining sea, we are a Welcoming Community and we are a Tolerant Nation.”

(Rep Gale’s full speech is included below)

Eva Castillo

Eva Castillo

Eva Castillo of the Immigrant and Refugees Coalition and Janeth Orozco of Welcoming NH spoke about how we need to change the political messaging surrounding immigrants and refugees. Castillo said, “We are all human” and that “We should be open and welcoming of people and their cultures that have shaped our nation”.

Ray Ealey, a member of the New Fellowship Baptist Church, led the group in a rousing version of “We Shall Overcome.” All of the attendees gathered in a circle, held hands and sang out.

Rev. Tom Woodward gave the closing prayer and “Call to Action.”

While our elected leaders fight to overcome the gridlock in Washington D.C to pass meaningful immigration reform, we want everyone to know – despite what others may say – New Hampshire is a tolerant, welcoming community.

The differences in all of us are what make America the great nation it is today.

And New Hampshire has always welcomed people – no matter what color, what language, what religion, what circumstances – to come here and “Live Free.”

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Full Speech by Rep. Sylvia Gale

Thank you all for joining us this evening.   This event was conceived and came about as a result of the thoughts and actions of many of us who are gathered here, along with many others who are unable to join us.

We have been distressed and dismayed with the news of what has been happening at our nation’s southern most borders…..that of more than 60,000 children, many of them unaccompanied by any legal parent or guardian, making the dangerous and overwhelmingly difficult journey to find safety and comfort which can no longer be assured in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

These children, some as young as 4 or 6, are literally fleeing for their lives and have been sent by their families with the last desperate hope of being reunited with other family members who may already be somewhere in the United States.   They and their families know that there is no guarantee that they will be able to stay here, but yet they come, fleeing for their very lives. 

No longer, as in the past, are they only fleeing to escape the devastating poverty in their home countries, but now they come seeking protection and safety from the unimaginable violence in their homes and schools, with murder rates raging out of control due to the seemingly unstoppable drug cartels that appear to have exerted their rampant violence into every aspect of civic and community existence in those countries. 

And, as news of this flood of young and desperate refugees has spread across this great nation, we have been further alarmed and dismayed by the reactions of some of our fellow countrymen and women who have raised signs and slogans steeped in racism and bigotry and have loudly shouted, “Not Welcome Here……GO HOME…..

We are here tonight to lend our voices, our messages, and our commitment to carry on a dialogue for PEACE through Understanding which needs to once again become loud enough so that all members of our community can hear it.

We will raise our voices so that all will know that here in Greater Nashua, here in the State of New Hampshire, and that all throughout this land we embrace and celebrate our differences. From Portland, Maine, to Maricopa County, Arizona, to Ferguson, Missouri, to Murietta, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to Miami, Florida, and beyond, from border to border, and from sea to shining sea, we are a Welcoming Community and we are a Tolerant Nation. 

We will drown out the voices of those who cling to hatred and bigotry, and we will continue to work…together…to achieve Peace through Understanding.

In order to honor all who have come before us, and all of those who have lost their lives struggling to find safety and freedom, we will now hold a time of silence for reflection, and to strengthen our resolve to do all that we can to exert our collective influence upon local, state, and national leaders to address the needs of not only these children, but of all of this nation’s newest arrivals……

(Moment of silence) 

To borrow from the poetic words of Emma Lazarus that are inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, we say: “Give US your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…..Here they should find safety and comfort, and be Welcomed…..

 

AFL-CIO Wants To Help All Workers With Executive Actions On Immigration

Time is now Immigration reform

AFL-CIO Presents a Panel Discussion on Advancing Workers’ Rights through Executive Action on Immigration

 This afternoon, the AFL-CIO hosted a panel discussion on the need for President Obama to advance the rights of workers by taking executive action on immigration. Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, was joined on the panel by workers and pro-immigrant allies.

Karla Vegas, Legal Director for the Worker Defense Project (a project of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network), highlighted the perils that immigrant workers face.

“The labor movement is driven by its mission to ensure workers have good jobs and fair treatment. This cannot be fully accomplished without immigration relief for the millions of undocumented workers who labor in not only unjust, but dangerous, working conditions.”

Since April of 2013, the AFL-CIO has been working alongside grassroots groups to push for administrative relief to stop the government from using deportations as a weapon against immigrant workers and their families. There are currently 8 million immigrants, five percent of the labor force, who are working in the United States without documents. Their vulnerable position makes them a target for unscrupulous employers who exploit these hardworking men and women by using them as cheap labor, in turn suppressing wages and conditions for all workers.

Reyna Sorto shared her experiences as an undocumented worker.

“I worked in a company named Tito’s Contractors for 10 years and 10 months. My job there was as a laborer, separating recyclable materials. Although my work was physically heavy on me I always gave it my best effort; I have always been very proud of doing my job as a woman. At the same time I also had to endure a lot of sexual harassment in my workplace; working even when I was sick out of fear of losing my job, and almost losing it in 2008 when I got pregnant.”

Lorella Praeli of United We Dream highlighted the legal significance of executive action.

“In line with many legal scholars, UWD fully believes that the President has the constitutional and legal authority to defer action on individual cases and confer employment authorization to millions on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion. The President has a historic opportunity to show courage where Republicans showed cowardice by starting the process that only Congress can finish.”

The panel also included Matthew Ginsburg, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO, Emilio Garcia Lagunes, a member of the United Steel Workers, Jayesh Rathod of American University’s Washington college of Law, Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza, Nadia Marin of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, Andrea Mercado of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and Sonia Ramirez of the Building and Construction Trades Department.

A Vigil For Tolerance, Acceptance and Welcoming

Vigil

Vigil

Over the past several weeks there have been “visitors” to the Exit 6 overpass on Broad Street in Nashua holding signs and trying to gain support from passing motorists. Their Anti-Immigrant messages have been hateful, incendiary and ugly carrying non-welcoming sentiments and expressing strongly worded opposition to our newest community members.

Hate is not a message that solves problems. Bigotry and racism demean us all.

I think these folks must be “visitors” because Nashua and the surrounding area are Welcoming Communities, where we embrace and celebrate our differences.

In order that those hate-filled messages are not perceived by others as speaking for you or me, we are planning to hold a Vigil at Nashua City Hall on Thursday, August 28 from 5-6:30 pm. I hope that you will all be able to join us there, and bring with you messages of Acceptance, Welcoming, and Tolerance.

A Vigil for Tolerance, Acceptance and Welcoming

When: Thursday, August 28. 2014

Where: Nashua (NH) City Hall Plaza

Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

For more information contact: Sylvia Gale (557-8417)

 

You can also RSVP to the NHLN Facebook Event here.

Granite State Rumblings: America Has Always Welcomed Refugee And Immigrant Children

Image by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan
Image by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan

Image by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan

As a child I remember my mother speaking German when she was upset or frustrated. I guess she thought that swearing in German was better than swearing in English in front of my sister, brother, and I. But we soon caught on to the words and I still use them myself at times.

When I asked her how she knew German, she told me that her father’s family was from Germany and many of her aunts and uncles speak German, having learned it from their parents. I think that was probably the first time that I realized that the United States was not where everyone was born.

My cousin Jim is the genealogy expert on the other side of my family. He has traced the roots of my father’s family from the first steps in America back to Ireland for the Kelly’s (my grandfather) and Germany for the Zulauf’s, (my grandmother). Many of my relatives came here as children. They went on to work in factories, some became farmers, teachers, nurses, while others started new businesses in this country and employed their relatives and neighbors, and many went into the armed services, protecting the country they now called home.

Migrant children have been coming to this country for many years. Back when my relatives made their way to America there were people here who called them the same names that we hear the children from Central America being called today – “invaders,” “disease ridden,” “job stealers.”  Some were confronted by signs on shop and factory doors that said, “Irish need not apply.”

I am saddened that my relatives, especially the children, had to endure this name calling and bigotry. But, I am proud that they stayed, worked hard, and educated themselves, and gave me a family history to be proud of.

I am embarrassed that we as Americans, all of us immigrants, have forgotten our own family histories. Seeing grown-ups screaming at terrified children for wanting nothing more than a better life repulses me.

The daughter of Dallas Judge, Clay Jenkins, said to him as he was explaining to her that all the children were being detained at the border for her security and protection, “But daddy, these aren’t people, these are children.”

And this is a humanitarian crisis. I hope we start to address it humanely, for the sake of the children.

GROWING UP GRANITE

New Hampshire has a diverse refugee population. The New Hampshire Refugee Program (NHRP) operates under the New Hampshire Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs. Here is information about the program from the DHHS website.

The primary goal of the Refugee Program is to assist refugees in their quest for economic self-sufficiency and successful integration. The NHRP is funded through the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Refugee Program staff work closely with the two New Hampshire voluntary resettlement agencies (volags), Lutheran Social Services and the International Institute of New Hampshire, as well as other area partners to support refugee integration.

These nonprofit voluntary resettlement agencies (volags) receive US Department of State, Bureau of Population and Migration funding and agree to resettle a number of refugees at the start of the fiscal year based on their capacity to provide services for new arrivals and the number of refugees coming into the U.S. Additional money is provided to states by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide self-sufficiency services. These services include:

  • Case Management: Resettlement agencies facilitate and coordinate a variety of services including housing, healthcare, referrals and general support services as refugees transition into their communities.
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA): Funds are designed to assist refugees during their 8 month, initial resettlement period. All refugees are entitled to Refugee Medical Assistance for their first eight months in the US. To be eligible for RCA, however, a refugee must be ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other cash support programs.
  • English as a Second Language: voluntary agencies collectively provide over 90 hours a week in English Language Training. Other public and private organizations provide additional ESOL in communities throughout New Hampshire. Classes are designed to help refugees achieve competencies in key linguistic areas, preparing them to meet their everyday language needs at work and in community life.
  • Employment Services: These include an assessment of vocational skills, job development, job placement and follow up services with local employers. The hard work of refugee employment counselors has made New Hampshire a model state for refugee resettlement. Refugees often find full-time employment within the first two or three months of arrival.
  • Preventive Health: The primary goal of the Preventive Health Program is to prevent and control problems of public health significance among incoming refugees, with emphasis on those health problems that may create barriers to self-sufficiency. The program ensures that refugees have access to health education, case management and interpreter services.
  • School Impact: This program targets school-aged refugees to support successful integration and academic achievement. The contractors also work closely with refugee parents and school personnel to discuss/resolve issues relevant to children’s school performance. The program provides a multitude of services that include leadership development, counseling, academic support, after school activities, parent training and cultural competency training for school personnel.
  • Services for Older Refugees: Older Refugees are often isolated from the mainstream community. The goal of the Services for Older Refugees program is to help older refugees access services available to mainstream older citizens. Contractors work with senior centers to develop culturally appropriate activities and improve cultural competence. Contractors also provide individualized case management to older refugees to resolve barriers to well-being, such as health access, transportation and housing issues. Finally, the project assists older refugees prepare for and achieve citizenship.

Learn more about Refugees and how they got to New Hampshire. experience.

Jerry DeLemus: Fear and Hate Mongering In New Hampshire

Child in poverty (Image Tim Grable FLIKR)

Today Foster Daily Democrat published a story about how Tea Party activist, organizer for Glenn Beck’s 9-12 project, and right wing whack-a-do Jerry DeLemus held a protest on a highway overpass to protest illegal immigration.

“The goal is to make the American people aware that there are people opposed to illegal immigration,” said event organizer Jerry DeLemus during the protest. “And also let our government know.”

DeLemus was taking part in a national day of action to protest what he is calling  “illegal immigration” of children from Central America.

“The solution,” said DeLemus during the protest, “is that our federal government and our state government should follow the law.”

So which law exactly would you like them to follow?

The one that takes these children into custody, puts them into a detention facility until they can receive a deportation trail to determine if or when they will be deported.

What mister fear and hate monger does not say, or does not simply understand, is that these children are not living in the United States illegally. They are walking up to border agents and asking to be taken into custody.

These children are walking hundreds, if not thousands of miles, to claim sanctuary from the horrific death and violence in their own countries. Many of them were sent here by their parents who would rather send them to the United States, knowing they may never see their child again, than to raise them in their home country.

These are innocent children who have nothing but the clothes on their back. Some of them are less than five years old.

This is a humanitarian crisis, not a function of illegal immigration.

Where is your humanity Jerry? Are you so self absorbed and full of hate for these little children that you would rather see these kids dropped off on a street corner in some Central American country with a pat on the head, saying “good luck,” as you walk away.

It is evil and disgusting that someone could even think like that.    Jerry is just another example of an ignorant racist Tea Party Republican who thinks, “America needs more patrolling of the nearly 2,000-mile-long border,” to fix this crisis.

 

More people patrolling does not stop the children from coming Jerry, it would just make it easier for the kids to turn themselves in.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.

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