Last week a dozen Republican U.S. Senators, all of whom oppose comprehensive immigration reform, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, protesting a recent speech in which she said that immigration reform would help lift the wages of American workers and create a more level playing field for honest employers and hard-working employees. These pro-big business, anti-union Senators are trying out a new argument: legalizing the status and increasing the bargaining power of undocumented immigrants would actually hurt ‘the American worker.’ Huh?
The letter, signed by Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), among others, criticizes Secretary Napolitano’s recent speech about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and goes on to state that such legislation would “exacerbate the unfair competition American workers currently face as they struggle to find jobs.” This despite the fact that organized labor is united in support of comprehensive immigration reform because it would “raise labor standards for all workers” and level the playing field in the workplace. So who got it right? A group of Senators with a long track record of coddling big business and voting against low-wage workers, or the combined forces of the nation’s two labor federations, the AFL-CIO and Change To Win?
Below is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
“This letter from Senate Republicans is the political equivalent of a deathbed conversion, and it is the height of hypocrisy. In 2007, when unemployment was low, these Senators opposed immigration reform because it was ‘amnesty.’ In 2009, when unemployment is high, they oppose it because of ‘the economy.’ But wrapping anti-immigration demagoguery in a cloak of concern about the American worker doesn’t fly when you have decades of votes to the contrary, or when organized labor – the true advocate for American workers – has united behind comprehensive immigration reform.
“What these Senators ignore is that the status quo is a de facto ‘amnesty’ that rewards bad-actor businesses at the expense of honest employers, and creates unfair competition that leads to a race to the bottom for all workers. Real reform will lift wages for workers at the lower end of the labor market, get more workers and employers on our tax rolls, and help build the foundation for long-term economic growth and shared prosperity.
“We need to make all immigrant workers legal, ensure that all employers hire legally, and enforce all labor protections aggressively. Such a 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. It’s time for Congress to reject hypocrisy and stalling tactics and to advance a sensible immigration solution for the good of the nation and all workers.”