The need for immigration reform with a path to citizenship is receiving a stirring defense from both the left and right this week. One day after Republican Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) called legalization without citizenship “un-American,” labor leader Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO is making an attainable path to citizenship his line in the sand. Legalization without citizenship, as he said:
means [immigrants] would never get citizenship, never get a green card. It’s a joke. It’s a hoax is what it is. It’s like fool’s gold.
Trumka explained that labor unions need a path to citizenship because workers who don’t have access to it are left vulnerable to exploitation. According to the Washington Post, he said that some employers use the threat of deportation to force immigrant workers to accept abusive conditions, citing the story of a union member who was recently deported after complaining about an employer who hadn’t paid him his salary.
Without citizenship, it’s a nonstarter because you can’t fix a broken immigration system and create a vast class of millions of people living in the community and working in our workplaces without citizenship. You can’t do that. They have no rights. The labor unions are united. Our price of admission is citizenship. Republicans aren’t talking seriously until they start talking about citizenship, and that means a direct route to green cards and a real path to citizenship.
Trumka also had harsh words for the Obama Administration, which is setting records for deporting more immigrants — most of whom have committed no crimes — than any other administration. Obama had hoped that his heavy-handedness on immigration would persuade Republicans to come to the table on immigration reform, but that has not worked — Republicans (ignoring just how much we spend on enforcement every year) continue to claim that they cannot trust Obama to enforce the borders. Yet more than 1,000 immigrants continue to be deported every single day. Trumka explains how the Obama approach was counterproductive — and how there’s still time to change his policies:
His policy of having deported over a thousand people a day is actually undermining his own policy, because that fear is causing people to say, ‘We’ll take less.’ It’s not acceptable. The president could take that pressure away today. He could take it away today and leave Boehner holding an empty bag, if that’s what he wants to use as pressure for an inferior bill and a permanent underclass.