Keene, CA – In the same week that hundreds of farmworkers came to Washington, DC to push for immigration reform, the United Farm Workers and farm worker groups from across the country celebrate a historic compromise with the nation’s largest grower associations to provide a special route to legal status for the nation’s farm workers. This compromise was brokered by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The proposal will be included as part of the comprehensive bill which will now include both a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and a separate process towards legalization and citizenship for farm workers. The UFW has been working towards this goal for over a decade with partners in the faith, labor and non-profit communities.
United Farm Workers endorse bipartisan immigration reform plan with critical protections for U.S. agricultural workers
by Paul Garver
The lively and boisterous rally was organized primarily by SEIU and allied community organizations including Jobs with Justice , MassUniting and MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition).
SEIU Local 615 President Rocio Saenz, herself an immigrant from Mexico and a veteran of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaigns, led the rally. She spoke eloquently of the integral connection of immigrant rights with union rights and human rights. She also introduced supportive speakers Sen. Elizabeth Warren and new Mass. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III.
Perhaps the most moving speakers were four immigrants of varying ages and countries of origin, one of them herself an Executive Board member of Local 615. who had suffered lengthy separations from their families and loved ones because of arbitrary regulations governing immigration. No immigration reform issue appeared more important and pressing than easing family reunification.
The population of Massachusetts includes about 320,000 residents with green cards, and another estimated 180,000 without legal permission. ICE raids remain a constant threat in many Mass. workplaces, as evidenced by raids such as one in New Bedford. The JFK Federal Building that looms over Fanueil Hall has been the locus of many court-ordered deportations of hard-working residents and family members whose only “crime” was overstaying visas or entering without papers.
From the rally everyone took to the streets to march to the Federal Building to lay carnations as symbols of determination to win immigration reform this time. Since the Federal Building was only a block away, we took an hour’s long detour assisted by a marching band through downtown historic and shopping districts to get there. For this day at least, the onlookers were friendly, the police cooperative and amicable. The atmosphere was hopeful and festive. with numerous chants of Si se puede!
The time has come to reclaim the best American tradition of openness to and inclusion of immigrants.
It was announced over the weekend the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” came to an agreement in principle on a major aspect of creating a commonsense immigration process that benefits all workers.
This agreement includes a new kind of worker visa program called the W-Visa, which will work for everyone, not just employers.
Here are five things you need to know about this new employer-based visa:
(March 22) A bill that creates a commonsense immigration process for America’s 11 million aspiring citizens is in jeopardy because of Republican demands for poverty wages.
Key Republican senators in the “Gang of Eight“, negotiating on the behalf of the business community, corporations and the extreme right-wing, rejected adding language to the bill that would ensure new W-visas would only be issued when employing foreign workers would not hurt wages and working conditions of workers already in the United States.
This language is already a longstanding law for other employment-based visa programs including the H-2B programs, yet Republicans are carrying the water for corporations, who at a time of the greatest income inequality since the great depression, are urging the United States Congress to further institutionalize inequality and poverty. (more…)
This January, Senators Hatch and Klobuchar introduced The Immigration Innovation Act, known as “I-Squared.” It will triple the number of foreign temporary workers from about 800,000 to over 2.3 million. This will distort the labor market for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which has only 4 million workers all told. I-Squared will seriously depress the domestic STEM labor market.
Figure 1. Trends in STEM enrollments and graduations compared to H-1B employment.
by Amy Dean
Immigrants’ rights are workers’ rights. These days, that idea is a principle held dear by the US labor movement. But that wasn’t always the case.
As recently as the mid-1990s, many unions took protectionist stances against allowing new immigrants to come to this country. It was only after these unions saw the abuses that became prevalent under an employer-driven system for verifying immigration status that the labor movement embraced a new position. The movement recognized that for working people to thrive, all employees had to have full rights in the workplace.
Today, labor is one of the key forces pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, DC. To learn more about the movement’s advocacy and more about how unions transformed themselves into outspoken champions of immigrant rights, I spoke with Maria Elena Durazo. A daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers, Durazo rose to become the leader of the hotel and restaurant workers union in Los Angeles, the dynamic UNITE HERE Local 11. And, as chair of the national AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee, Durazo is now a leading point person in the national immigration debate.
(Feb 21) Characterizing themselves as being “in the middle—not the end” of negotiations over how immigration reform should handle the question of guest workers, the presidents of the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce released a joint statement laying out the broad strokes of three reforms:
First, American workers should have a first crack at available jobs. To that end, business and labor are committed to improving the way that information about job openings in lesser-skilled occupations reaches the maximum number of workers, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.Second, there are instances—even during tough economic times—when employers are not able to fill job openings with American workers. Those instances will surely increase as the economy improves, and when they occur, it is important that our laws permit businesses to hire foreign workers without having to go through a cumbersome and inefficient process. Our challenge is to create a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market-driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers. Among other things, this requires a new kind of worker visa program that does not keep all workers in a permanent temporary status, provides labor mobility in a way that still gives American workers a first shot at available jobs, and that automatically adjusts as the American economy expands and contracts.
Temporary worker programs in the United States are often presented as a “win-win” process, by which employers and foreign workers come together to both fill industry shortages and meet the needs of immigrant workers on a seasonal basis. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are recruited from abroad to work on a vast array of temporary visas, in a wide range of industries, from low-wage jobs in agriculture and landscaping, to higher-wage jobs in technology, nursing and teaching. Yet, few discuss how these workers come to the United States and under what terms. Regardless of their visa, internationally recruited workers face disturbingly common patterns of abuse, including fraud, discrimination, economic coercion, blacklisting and, in some cases, forced labor, debt bondage and human trafficking.
The International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG), a diverse coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, AFT, the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. (CDM), Farmworker Justice, Global Workers Justice Alliance, National Guestworker Alliance, Southern Poverty Law Center and other international and national organizations, met on February 5 to launch a report highlighting abuses experienced by internationally recruited workers. Directly before the House Judiciary Committee’s first immigration hearing and fresh on the heels of President Obama’s proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, the group called for lawmakers to implement meaningful regulation of recruitment practices as part of a legislative package.
Filed under: Immigrant Workers, Organizing | Tagged: ILRWG, immigration, immigration reform, International Labor Recruitment Working Group, Latino, Philippines, The American Dream Up for Sale, Visa | 1 Comment »
by Leo Gerard
Oscar came to the United States at the age of 16 to work. There were no jobs for him in his native Guatemala, and he felt obligated to help support his parents.
He was lured across borders by the promise of work. He believed, as so many immigrants do, that there would be a job for him in America.
For the past five years, he has worked at a Los Angeles car wash that cheated him and other immigrant workers out of pay, refused protective gear and even denied drinking water.
Employers such as car washes, corporate farms, construction companies and lawn care businesses entice immigrants into the United States by providing jobs with no questions asked. They lure undocumented workers in, and then abuse them with impunity. This endangers all workers because the low-wage, hazardous conditions undocumented workers endure can become the standard. This is especially true in bad economic times. More border security is fine. But to ensure safe, family-supporting jobs remain the norm, America must hold employers accountable for baiting immigrants.
by Amy B. Dean
At this moment, various plans to reform America’s broken immigration system are working their way through Congressional debate. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers unveiled a plan that includes what they call a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Last Friday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss the issue, and this caucus’ input will influential in shaping any final legislation.
In the current political climate, immigration reform is broadly popular, with both parties eager to win over the Hispanic electorate in 2014 and 2016. But that doesn’t mean that a bipartisan effort will pass a good law — especially if long-time opponents of immigration reform are only cynically vying for votes. We have every reason to doubt the sincerity of conservatives such as Senator Marco Rubio, who is leading the charge from the Republican side of the aisle with an eye on his own bid for president.
For the Democrats, the challenge will be to avoid simply jumping at the first deal offered by newly converted conservatives. Instead, for the first time in decades, promoters of reform have the opportunity to hold America to its promise of being a land of liberty and justice for all.