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Texas Ruling On Immigration Is Setback But Will Not Stop The AFL-CIO’s Work On Immigration

Late last night, a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the implementation of President Obama’s new deferred action initiatives. These initiatives, announced last November, came in response to more than 10 years of political stalemates and failure by Congress to address America’s broken immigration system and alleviate the pain endured by millions of families around the country. The President’s announced initiatives will provide temporary relief from deportation to approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

The new deferred action initiatives, which include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are based on the well-established authority of Presidents and other executive branch officers to allocate and prioritize finite enforcement resources. This practice is used by prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel on daily basis. The judge’s order, issued just two days before the government was set to begin the DACA expansion, bars federal immigration officials from implementing “any and all aspects” of the new deferred action initiatives.

The following is a statement by Melissa Crow, Legal Director at the American Immigration Council:

“Today’s decision is only the first round in what will clearly be a much longer legal battle. Already, the White House has promised that the Justice Department will appeal the judge’s decision, and we urge them to do so in an expedited manner. We expect higher courts to overturn the judge’s decision based on well-established precedent.

“Today’s decision is more rooted in political rhetoric than legal rationales. It relies on a distorted view of overwhelming evidence of the economic benefits of immigration and ignores Supreme Court precedent. It also discounts a long history of recourse to prosecutorial discretion, which has been exercised by every President since Eisenhower. The decision relies on a technical violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to find that the Administration did not follow proper procedures, while ignoring the fact that the President’s deferred action initiatives are not subject to the APA. While the decision will unfortunately delay critical efforts to address our broken immigration system, the need and the demand for reform has never been greater. We remain confident that it is a question of when, not if, these programs will take effect.”

After the court ruling was announced Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released the following statement:

This temporary setback will not deter the AFL-CIO’s work on the ground to ensure that as many workers as possible are eventually able to gain protections and work authorization under the new deferred action programs. Around the country, we will continue educating workers, training union activists and helping eligible applicants gather the documents they will need to qualify.

This lawsuit represents a misguided effort to use a false economic basis to block the immigration relief that millions of hardworking, longtime members of our community deserve. The executive actions on immigration will in fact increase earnings, grow the tax base, strengthen the economy and further the public interest, as states like Washington, California, Illinois and New York have explained to the court. The AFL-CIO supports the Department of Justice’s decision to file an appeal, and we trust that higher courts will undo this wrong.

The path to justice often includes obstacles. We will not give up the fight until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform with a clear pathway to citizenship so that all workers in this country will have the ability to assert their rights on the job and in their communities. In the meantime, this ruling will further strengthen the resolve of a resilient community that is a vital part of our labor movement. We know that an organized community is a stronger community, and that together we will rise.

Senator Shaheen Says “We Cannot Play Politics With Dept. Of Homeland Security Funding”

At New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center (NHIAC), Shaheen highlights importance of homeland security resources for public safety and preparedness

(Concord, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) this morning toured the New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center (NHIAC) to highlight the importance of approving homeland security funding for the remainder of this fiscal year in the interest of public safety and preparedness. While congress is currently facing a February 27th deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security, certain lawmakers are threatening to add extraneous legislative riders to a funding bill that could lead to a potential agency shutdown.

At this morning’s tour, Shaheen was briefed by New Hampshire Department of Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes, New Hampshire State Police, Division Director Colonel Robert Quinn and New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Perry Plummer on the capabilities of the center, which provides strategic and tactical information regarding threats facing New Hampshire and its citizens.

“We cannot play politics with homeland security funding,” said Shaheen. “The work being done at the New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center and by the entire New Hampshire law enforcement community is so important for keeping New Hampshire and its residents safe. And it’s a perfect example of why these resources are so critical.

“In the coming days and weeks I’ll continue highlighting why we must pass a clean funding bill for the remainder of this fiscal year, and I hope lawmakers will refrain from using this bill as a vehicle to score political points on entirely unrelated issues,” she added.

This morning’s visit comes following Shaheen’s recent appointment as Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security. The Homeland Security Subcommittee oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its related agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others. The Subcommittee also supports the DHS’ efforts to protect the nation’s security against terrorism and other hazards in five core issue areas:

  • preventing terrorism and enhancing security.
  • securing and managing U.S. borders.
  • enforcing and administering federal immigration laws.
  • safeguarding and securing cyberspace.
  • ensuring resilience to disasters.

Republicans Vote To Block President Obama’s Executive Action On Immigration

House Speaker John BoehnerYesterday, the US House voted along party lines to block President Obama’s Executive Action on immigration and deferred deportations of those aspiring Americans currently residing in the US.

The House voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security with a couple of major caveat’s.  The Immigration Policy Center reported:

“The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the $39.7 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, including five amendments that attacked parts of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.”

This is another misguided attempt by the House Republicans to connect deferred deportation with the massive influx of migrant children from South America.

Congressman Frank Guinta released the following statement that shows how the GOP does not understand how or why these children are coming to the United States and what deferring deportations would really do.  Congressman Guinta is also trying to push the idea that President Obama’s Executive Action is unconstitutional.

“Unfortunately, the President’s unlawful executive orders run counter to this.  I made a promise to Granite Staters to uphold our Constitution and work diligently to strengthen and reform our broken immigration system.  The passage of H.R. 240 is a common-sense first step in modernizing our system to reward those who enter our borders the lawfully while holding those whom break our laws accountable.”

The American Federation of Teachers President Rani Weingarten condemned the Republican move to defund President Obama’s immigration Executive Action.

“President Obama used his legal authority to sign an executive order last year because the Republican-controlled House failed to do its job by passing legislation on immigration reform. Rather than offer solutions that address our comprehensive immigration crisis, Republicans are waging war—in courts at the state level and in Congress—on families who want to live the American dream.

“Defunding DHS is not only irresponsible—because it jeopardizes our national security by leaving our borders more porous and undermanned—it’s bad policy. The president’s executive action will save lives, keep families together and expand our economy—a formula that will help reclaim the promise of the American dream.”

The House Republican’s have shown us all once again that they are not interesting in helping these aspiring Americans and are only interested in opposing President Obama.  This week the AFL-CIO released a new report that shows a direct connection between the failed “free trade agreements” with Central American countries is leading to the influx of unaccompanied minors last summer.

The real question is how will the Senate react to the ideologically misguided legislation passed by the House?  Initial reports say the Senate will pass a clean funding authorization and strip the controversial amendments.

Immigration, Civil Rights and Labor Groups Join Legal Effort to Defend Immigration Action

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Washington D.C. – Today, immigration, civil rights and labor groups joined the legal effort to defend President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration by filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the case, State of Texas vs. United States. In the days after the President’s November 20th announcement, two lawsuits were filed seeking to block implementation of the new deferred action initiatives. Both lawsuits seek a “preliminary injunction”—a temporary block of the programs during the life of a lawsuit. The amicus brief, which was written in support of the federal government, provides powerful economic, fiscal, and societal reasons to allow these programs to take effect later this year.

The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Define American, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream filed a brief opposing the states’ request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s new deferred action initiatives.

In their brief, the groups provide powerful testimonials about potential beneficiaries of the new deferred action initiatives, many of whom are already entrepreneurs and community leaders. These individuals include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, community leaders, and primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen children. The groups also explain how the deferred action initiatives will positively impact the U.S. economy, raising wages, increasing tax revenue, and creating new jobs.

Legal battles against President Obama’s action on immigration have already begun. Last week, the first case brought by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was rejected by a federal district court judge in D.C. The second case, filed by Texas and 24 other states, is currently set to be heard on January 9, in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division.

These lawsuits are merely an attempt to use the courts for political ends; scores of legal experts agree that the President’s actions are well within the scope of his executive authority. Beneath the surface of the lawsuits are the same speculative and discredited myths of criminality and economic impacts that have long fueled anti-immigrant rhetoric.

To view the groups’ legal brief in full see:

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

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_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)

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”

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”

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

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.

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