For immediate release
March 22, 2005
The following is a statement by John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industry of UNITE HERE, Andrew L. Stern, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Terence M. O’Sullivan, General President of Laborers’International Union of North America (LIUNA), together representing over 3 million workers many of whom are immigrants.
Let us begin by saying that we are all pleased that such a diverse array of constituencies is represented at today’s press conference, and we are proud to be counted among you. There are not many issues in America today that bring together labor, business, faith-based, Latino, Asian-American, and conservative groups. Immigration reform, though, is one of them.
That is because the time has come for our great nation and its leaders to rise to the challenge and forge a comprehensive reform that protects the American people, protects our borders, and protects American and immigrant workers. As we all know, the status quo is badly broken, and fails on all of these counts.
Some 10 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, and most are here to work. These immigrant workers make our clothes, bus our tables, clean our hotel rooms, cook our food, care for our children, tend to the elderly, harvest the nation’s crops, and help build and clean America’s homes and buildings.
These immigrant workers just want to be recognized for their hard work and accepted as part of the nation’s family. They want to get on the path to legal status and full rights, to reunite with their families, to have a voice on the job,and to be treated fairly. But these rights and opportunities are denied them due to their lack of immigration status and due to outdated laws, which subject many of those here in search of the American Dream to abuse, fear, and marginalization.
It is time for our immigration laws to get real rather than to continue to ignore reality. And the reality is this: because there is no viable path for workers already here to get on a path to legal status and citizenship, and because family reunification slots are restricted, millions are forced into the migration black market where the government has no control, smugglers and unscrupulous employers run the show, and immigrants are subject to death in the desert, victimization at the hands of ruthless smugglers, and exploitation in the workplace if they make it into the U.S.
By comprehensive reform we mean comprehensive reform. The combination of policies we support are as follows: 1) bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and then, in a second step, allow those who want to settle here a chance to eventually earn permanent residence and get on the path to citizenship; 2) reward those who have waited in line to join close family members with timely processing of their visas; 3) avoid the exploitation and abuses of flawed guestworker programs by creating a “break-the-mold” worker visa program that will enable law-abiding employers access to needed workers, while protecting U.S. and immigrant workers from unfair competition and abuse; and 4) propose smart enforcement policies that tackle illegal immigration from its source in sending countries, during illegal transit across borders, and in the interior of the United States.
The combination, taken together, will replace a chaotic system rife with illegality with a system that is safe, legal, orderly, and fair to all. It will make our immigration policies more enforceable, bring immigrants out of the shadows, make it easier for immigrants to cooperate with the authorities, ensure full labor rights for all workers,and create an even playing field for employers. Yes, the details will be difficult and the details matter. But all of us should stretch to craft a reform that will work. We call on our leaders in the White House, in both chambers, and in both parties, to step up and reform the immigration system so that it strengthens our economy, gets control of our borders,improves national security,and increases participation in our democracy. Doing so will not only bring immigration out of the shadows, it will bring our policies in line with our ideals and values.