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Simon Rosenberg: Making the Case for Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year

by Web Team on 05/01/2009 at 9:40am

Note: Originally posted yesterday, April 30th, at NDN’s Blog. 

NDNToday in the Senate, Senator Schumer is holding an important hearing: “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do it and How?” Here at NDN, we believe the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is “yes.” Below are seven reasons why:

1) In tough economic times, we need to remove the “trap door” under the minimum wage.

One of the first acts of the new Democratic Congress back in 2007 was to raise the minimum wage, to help alleviate the downward pressure on wages we had seen throughout the decade even prior to the current Great Recession. The problem with this strategy is that the minimum wage and other worker protections required by American law do not extend to those workers here illegally. With economic times worsening here and in the home countries of the migrants, unscrupulous employers have much more leverage over, and incentive to keep, undocumented workers. With five percent of the current workforce — amazingly, with one out of every 20 workers now undocumented, this situation creates an unacceptable race to the bottom, downward pressure on wages, at a time when we need to be doing more for those struggling to get by, not less.   

Legalizing the five percent of the work force that is undocumented would create a higher wage and benefit floor than exists today for all workers, further helping, as was intended by the increase in the minimum wage two years ago, to alleviate the downward pressure on wages for those struggling the most in this tough economy.  

Additionally, it needs to be understood that these undocumenteds are already here and working.  If you are undocumented, you are not eligible for welfare. If you are not working, you go home. Thus, in order to remove this “trap door,” we need to either kick five percent of existing American workforce out of the country — a moral and economic impossibility — or legalize them. There is no third way on this one. They stay and become citizens or we chase them away. 

Finally, what you hear from some of the opponents of immigration reform is that by passing reform, all of these immigrants will come and take the jobs away of everyday Americans. But again, the undocumented immigrants are already here, working, having kids, supporting local businesses. Legalization does not create a flood of new immigrants — in fact, as discussed earlier, it puts the immigrant worker on a more even playing field with legal American workers. It does the very inverse of what is being suggested — it creates fairer competition for American workers — not unfair competition. The status quo is what should be most unacceptable to those who claim they are advocating for the American worker.  

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