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Unions and other worker organizing groups widely praised President Barack Obama's immigration reform speech, as you'd expect. After all, the president and worker groups are on the same page about the urgency of immigration reform and the need for a path to citizenship, among other things. But going beyond the general commendations, responses the speech yielded specifics that give a sense of areas of concern that unions and other groups will be keeping an eye on—and ready to fight for. Though the president's speech and the Senate framework on immigration are reason to be "hopeful," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, "hope is not a plan. That’s why America’s unions are undertaking a national campaign to ensure that Congress passes a genuinely comprehensive plan in 2013."

"Genuinely comprehensive" is one key. "This road needs to be open to all who dream of a better life in the United States—not just those with advanced degrees," National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo noted. "It is imperative that the domestic workforce be given the chance to step out of the shadows and continue the work they do every day to make all work in this nation possible."

And those workers' voices need to be heard on the road to reform. In that vein, the United Workers Congress, a coalition of groups representing workers excluded from the right to organize, called for "immediate steps taken to allow full participation of workers in this debate," such as an immediate stop to deportations.

The guest worker provisions in immigration reform are obviously a key concern for unions across industries. For instance, the Communications Workers of America "will monitor any proposed changes to visa programs like the H-1B visa, which are sought after by business but have cost U.S. technicians and other workers tens of thousands of jobs." For United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, meanwhile, the concern is "The bipartisan group of senators’ ambiguous and vague references to the existing H-2A agricultural guest worker program, and the suggestion that it should be replaced with a new visa program." The specific concerns around H-1B and H-2A visas are different, but the big questions are the same: preventing the establishment of large groups of guest workers who, lacking labor protections, would be vulnerable to abuses themselves and used to undercut wages and working conditions for other workers.

These are issues unions and worker groups have been dealing with for years. "This issue is personal for UFCW members," UFCW President Joe Hansen said. "Many watched in horror during the 2006 ICE raids as hundreds of documented and undocumented workers were detained and harassed just for doing their jobs." UNITE HERE President D Taylor spoke to the aspirations of many of his union's members, saying, "We look forward to a time before long when the aspiring citizens in UNITE HERE and in our country will be welcomed as full and equal Americans."

UAW President Bob King, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina also had statements praising the moving toward immigration reform.

Please join with Daily Kos and Workers' Voice by signing our petition supporting President Obama's call for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 08:21 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The devil will certainly be in the details (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mannie, IT Professional

    when it comes to defining exactly who is the respectable, law-abiding, financially self-supporting longtime immigrant who is eligible for eventual citizenship.

    If financially self-supporting is defined as "employed" by an identified employer, NOT under the table -- forget it, doesn't exist.  Equally, how can data on under-the-table employment by an identified employer ever be expected to be freely made availalbe?  

    I would suggest something along the lines of looking to  establish financial self-sufficiency throgh utility bills, rental payments, and the like.  But then xenophobes will turn around and say (even in the complete absence of criminal records) that it must be ill-gotten gains from crime and drugs that paid those bills.    Not very complementary to our law-enforcement establishment, but whatever.

    What kind of definition SHOULD we push for, and what are some less-than-ideal but potentially acceptible compromise definitions?

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 11:44:45 AM PST

    •  I think that learning English and paying massive (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tool, lgmcp, IT Professional

      fines is just as concerning.  

      How many adults can realistically learn a different language instantly in order to pass a test in that newly acquired language?  

      How much could two decades of back taxes cost a minimum wage worker...if they have been here that long?  Now, add on the fine?

      Now they have to get at "the back of the line".  How long is that line....how much time must they stand there before they are then finally citizens with the right to vote?

      •  All those issues are thorny (0+ / 0-)

        and will have to be thrashed out if any legislation is to be passed.  

        With respect to back taxes, it occurs to me that low-income citizens tend to RECEIVE money at tax-time, what with EITC, deductions for children and childcare, etc.   I wonder if the true tax accounting for long-time undocumented might not show a low or zero liability on their part.  Not sure if I'm right about that but it bears looking into.  

        If fines are not completely prohibitive, families would probably muster their resources to invest in it just as they have long invested in the extortionate fees charged by Coyotes for assistance in evading border control.  

        One group that would NOT be overly restricted by any ultimate language requirements that R's force us to accept, would be individuals brought here as young children, e.g. DREAMers.  That group lacks documentation and they lack birthright citizenship, but growing up in the USA they tend to acquire fluency in both languages.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:01:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To be clear, I am looking here (0+ / 0-)

          to the art of the possible.  Employment, taxes, fines, and language requirements WILL be demanded politically by the right wing, and perhaps not by them only.  Given that reality, what are reasonable and humane modifications that we can expect to be persuasive to a sufficient number of voters?  

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:21:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The language requirement is the (0+ / 0-)

            one I don't get at all.  If the immigrant is not going to drive, why do we care that he or she learns English?

            Driving requires reading posted road directions and can affects the safety of others on the road, but DMV tests check for this already.

            Why was this rule thrown in at all?

        •  Even if they owe no taxes (0+ / 0-)

          There are still penalties and interest for Failure to File.  Also they should need to file these returns and divulge the employers they worked for so the IRS can go after them as well.

  •  Wow! Thank you Laura for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp

    using a photo I shot! Certainly I will sign the petition! Every immigrant deserves a pathway to citizenship. Our country has a long history of immigration that needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into this century. We can not allow this country to have a permanent underclass of people any longer.

    President Obama would have been a republican in the 1980's & 1990's. Go figure.

    by Tool on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 11:58:48 AM PST

  •  We have 20 Million Unemployed Americans (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, IT Professional

    Cannot support any Guest Worker programs while we have so many unemployed.  This is not the time for this issue.  

    We need to hire Auditors to go out and put Corporate Officers in Jail of any employers who hires illegals whether knowingly or not.

    Any immigration reform that does not crack down on employment practices is not really refors - and then we get to do another amnesty every 10-15 years.

    •  The prospective citizens we are talking about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, sebastianguy99

      are already here and already working.  Giving them the opportunity to acquire the rights and responsibilities of citizenship will not, in itself, change the net level of job openings.  The lawns that are getting mowed will continue to get mowed, and the motel beds being changed will continue to get changed.  

      You are correct that not cracking down on employers, particularly large emloyers, is untenable and hypocritical in the extreme.  Unfortunately the Republican party has every incentive to PROTECT that particular class of miscreants and to enable them to keep their workers fearful, unprotected, and dependent.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:11:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well except the fact that once they are citizens, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sebastianguy99, IT Professional

        they might leave those jobs to continue to move up in society.  They do those jobs now because they lack documentation.  Once they have the right to work here...they will have as much opportunity as any other citizen to apply for any job they like.  

        •  And then someone else will have a shot (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ban nock

          at their former menial job.    

          The thing is that a path to citizenship does NOT, in itself, change the number of warm bodies who are filling existing jobs or competing for new ones.  Importing large numbers of additional workers, is a different issue and should be dealt with on its own merits.  

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:47:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes, but hence the reason they will push the issue (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lgmcp

            of a closed border before they do this.  They will say that if newly created citizens move on to other better jobs...who will then fill the lower pay jobs....new immigrants?  

            I think we should get on board with a solid job plan to go with the immigration reform, so we are certain to have jobs for everyone.

             There is no reason to believe that immigration reform by itself wouldn't have some effect on the job situation, in some way and doubtful it would be positive, since we have so many out of work now.  All 11 million of the immigrants don't necessarily work now.  There might be spouses, housewives or even extended families living together with only one income....mainly because it is hard to find employment when you have no documents.  Whenever everyone has the right to work and proper documents to do so...it could become a strain on an already dire situation.

            However, there is no reason to discard the immigration process because of it but we shouldn't dismiss the idea that jobs wouldn't be effected.  We must push the meme of jobs, jobs, jobs and immigration reform.  Both can be done at the same time....both should be done at the same time and it is the moral thing to do in any regard.

  •  I'm a little concerned about the amount of H-1B (6+ / 0-)

    visas that could be issued. What is being proposed basically doubles what  what is in place now...115,000 to start, with more if companies' requests use up that allotment within a few months. The quota would be increased for the next year if that's the case.

    Last time I checked, we're kind of short a few jobs.

    No doubt there is a need for STEM grads, but I'd like to see this country get serious about higher ed. What students pay for tuition is outrageous.

    Orrin Hatch's bill only asks companies to pony up $1000 per H-1B that would go toward STEM programs. Bill Gates has said that $10,000 would be a fair fee. Hatch's bill is simply an overly generous gift.

    •  I totally agree! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hockeyray, bleeding blue

      Do you know how many IT/Telecom jobs have been los to consolidation (not even couting off-shoring, etc)?

      Plenty of skilled labour out there for these jobs, but H1-B's are cheaper and can be coerced easily. That is why repugs and corporations love them!

      I sure hope that CWA really pushes back hard on H1-Bs!

      The guest worker provisions in immigration reform are obviously a key concern for unions across industries. For instance, the Communications Workers of America "will monitor any proposed changes to visa programs like the H-1B visa, which are sought after by business but have cost U.S. technicians and other workers tens of thousands of jobs."
      Show us that unions are still the voice of the regular working person, FIGHT CWA, FIGHT!  I support you!

      (And I am a former CWA member)

      Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

      by Mannie on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:16:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And Push "Obama"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99, Fulgour

    Isn't that backwards?

    They should be pushing congress.......the hard right that have consistently blocked any progress in CIR since 2005.

    •  We will not get far if we can't identify where the (0+ / 0-)

      ...problem lies. The problem is the Congress. I hope in this second term people start to realize that President Obama needs our help.

      "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.".. Buddha

      by sebastianguy99 on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 08:42:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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