We welcome the news that both of the nation’s major labor federations have agreed to join forces to support an overhaul of the immigration system. They are backing the Obama administration’s call for a path to legalized status for each of the 12 million undocumented people now living and working in the United States.
Legalization of undocumented immigrants living here is the only path that makes sense, both from a humanitarian and economic vantage point. Immigration raids and the human suffering they cause are beneath where we want to be as a country. Dollars-wise — national, state and local economies would suffer damaging, if not irreversible dislocation, if the immigrant population were suddenly to disappear.
Legalization is also the first step that must be taken if we are ever to make it impossible for unscrupulous employers to use low-paid immigrant workers as a means to drive down the working and living conditions of all workers. When all workers can enjoy the rights of citizenship or legal residency, the labor movement will be in a much better position to fight for them on the job and to organize those who are not yet organized.
We also agree with the part of the accord that warns against extension of the H-2B visa program or any other similar type of “guest worker” program. Big business would like to keep and expand the “guest worker” approach because it essentially supplies companies with indentured servants whose stay in the country can be terminated at the whim of the company that employs them. The guest worker programs are also effectively used to keep down the wages and working conditions of everyone else.
Labor unity on the issue of immigration is good news because it helps demonstrate to all workers that a rational solution will benefit everyone. After seeing labor leadership take up this struggle, growing numbers of additional workers will better understand how it is the greedy and self serving corporations, not immigrants, who have ruined our economy and who threaten the recovery.