This week, a New York Times editorial pointed out immigration reform will have an uphill climb in a Congress dominated by hard-liners. As the editorial says, we’re going to get more of the same:
a national doubling-down on enforcement, with still more border fencing and immigration agents, workplaces locked down, and states and localities setting police dragnets on what always was — and still ought to be — federal turf.You’d think a new Congress would have a few new ideas. We have had agreement for years that securing our borders is a priority, but only one of several necessary priorities if we are to have an immigration system that works. Here at the UFCW, we’ve spent years working with other labor unions, elected and business leaders, and advocacy groups on the right and the left to find common sense fixes for our broken immigration system. And we’ve got a few thoughts for the next Congress.
First, we’ve seen how enforcement-only approaches hurt all workers, fueling divisiveness and racial profiling, trampling rights, interrupting production, putting companies out of business and Americans out of work.
Second, both the CATO Institute and the Center for American Progress have determined, in independent studies, that immigration reform would pump more than a trillion dollars into the U.S. economy—creating jobs, which should be issue number one for the incoming Congress.
Third, the workplace is sometimes more than a workplace—it’s a common area where workers learn about American culture and customs, forge friendships, and begin to understand what being an American is all about. Many of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents found this out firsthand when they came to work in America.
Fourth, individual state-based immigration policy will only make the situation worse. We understand the frustration when Washington won’t act, so states feel like they must. Some irresponsible congressional representatives even encourage state-based solutions in order to avoid getting to work and providing a federal solution to a serious national problem. It is up to Washington to lead and act. Only federal legislation, guided by democratic principles and the rule of law, can fix our broken system. Congress needs to get serious about immigration.
Fifth, we need a clear process for undocumented workers to get right with the law, and secure our borders. Such a process would raise wages and benefits for all workers, because incentives to hire undocumented workers and exploit them would be eliminated.
Finally, we need to remove legal work-based immigration from the uncertainty of the political process, and put in place a process to meet industry workforce requirements through a depoliticized system comprised of industry, economic, and labor experts.
Real immigration reform would uphold our values of civic inclusion and participation, as well as embrace the vitality and diversity that are the fabric of a vibrant and strong society. It’s what Americans deserve—and it’s what will work to move all working people forward in the 21st century.