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New Report from Labor Groups Makes Case for Immigration Reform

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Study: Counterproductive Workplace Immigration Enforcement Has Harmed All Workers’ Rights; Labor Law Enforcement Must Be Priority

A report released today by leading labor organizations shows how the federal government’s recent approach to workplace immigration enforcement has harmed efforts to protect both immigrant and native-born workers’ rights while allowing unscrupulous employers to operate with near impunity. 

Authored jointly by the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), American Rights at Work, and the National Employment Law Project, ICED Out: How Immigration Enforcement Has Interfered with Workers’ Rights examines the Bush administration’s workplace immigration enforcement actions between 2006 and 2008 and describes in devastating detail the problems associated with prioritizing immigration enforcement over labor law enforcement.  Though the report’s policy recommendations focus mostly on restoring a proper balance between immigration and labor law enforcement, the study also makes a persuasive case for comprehensive immigration reform and its benefits to all American workers.

The new report  finds that “in recent years, with the rise of workplace raids and with more governmental agencies, such as state and local police, involved in immigration enforcement, the government has trampled on the labor rights of workers,” and that the “single-minded focus on immigration enforcement without regard to violations of workplace laws has enabled employers with rampant labor and employment violations to profit by employing workers who are terrified to complain.”  Among the recommendations in the report are proposed guidelines to prevent immigration enforcement actions from superseding ongoing labor law investigations and labor disputes, to avoid repeating the mistakes and damages caused by such actions as the Postville, IA raid of May 2008.

“This report is a damning indictment of how get-tough immigration enforcement aimed at pandering to hardliners and garnering headlines undermines American and immigrant workers,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “Though the Obama administration has wisely halted some of the egregious tactics highlighted in this report, we can’t truly fix the underlying problems until we address and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

This spring, the two largest labor federations in America, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win (CTW), agreed to a common framework for comprehensive immigration reform.  Their plan includes a path to legal status for undocumented workers and a commission to regulate the entry of workers in the future, in addition to labor protections and enforcement standards to guard against the types of abuse described in the study released today.

“The key to making our immigration system work for all is to make all immigrant workers legal, ensure all employers hire legally, and enforce all labor protections aggressively.  The combination will create an equal playing field for workers and employers who are complying with the law, and allow for tough and targeted enforcement against those who don’t,” said Frank Sharry.  “The only way such a system will come into being is if Congress steps up and fashions a 21st century immigration system that promotes, rather than undermines, legal immigration, legal hiring, and worker protections.”
Link to ICED Out: How Immigration Enforcement Has Interfered with Workers’ Rights

Link to April 2009 America’s Voice study on the misplaced immigration enforcement priorities of the Bush Administration

 America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.