by Pablo Ros | February 22, 2013
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes urged fellow union members in Anaheim, Calif., this week to join together and fight for real immigration reform.
“Together we are going to fight to bring 11 million workers out of the shadows and let them see that the American Dream is not off limits to them,” she said, in a speech delivered at the Orange County Labor Federation Pathway to Citizenship Rally. “How we seize this moment will be our legacy.”
Earlier this month, a group of eight U.S. senators released a “Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” calling for improvements in securing the border, a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, and an effective “employment verification system.” Since then, labor and business leaders have been working together to reach agreement on many of the features that such reform should take, including a potential guest worker program.
Reyes warned her audience that the road to comprehensive immigration reform will not be free of obstacles. But the labor movement has the power—“and the obligation that comes with power,” she said—to fight for fair working conditions and social justice, not just on behalf of workers in a local or bargaining unit, but on behalf of every worker.
“We believe in hard work, in the dignity of all work, and in respect for one another,” she added.
Reyes also recalled that the 11 million undocumented immigrants we call our neighbors and friends “moved here to build better lives for themselves and their families, just as immigrants always have.”
“We shop in the same stores. We support the same churches and charities. The children of immigrants—the Dreamers—want to serve our country, the only country they have ever known as home,” she said.
This week, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pres. Thomas Donohue released a joint statement of principles to guide legislation “in the complicated and important area of addressing lesser-skilled immigration to our country.” Their principles are that American workers should have a “first crack at available jobs”; that at times when employers cannot fill job openings with American workers, “it is important that our laws permit businesses to hire foreign workers without having to go through a cumbersome and inefficient process”; and that we make the system more transparent.