AFL-CIO Launches National Petition Vs. Deporting Undocumented People

WASHINGTON–Fed up with congressional refusal to tackle comprehensive immigration reform, the AFL-CIO launched a national petition campaign to demand Democratic President Barack Obama take administrative action to remove the threat of deportation hanging over 11 million people.

The petition, available on the federation’s website, was also sent to more than 50 member unions and hundreds of allied organizations.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka accompanied the petition with a message to workers and their families nationwide.  “When I think about immigration, I think about boats,” he said.  “I think about boats coming to America long ago, filled with hopeful workers in search of a better life.”

In a reference to Right Wingers at the U.S.-Mexico border who block busloads of children and to Tea Party and GOP efforts to use immigrants as fodder for political hate campaigns, Trumka continued: “And I think about what those boats would look like now.

“They’d be turned in the other direction, deporting those hopeful workers and separating our families. Because America doesn’t welcome her children now.  Our broken patchwork of policies turns them away.”

The AFL-CIO and the rest of organized labor have long campaigned for comprehensive immigration reform, which would put the 11 million undocumented people on a long – some would say torturous – 13-year path to legalization and eventual citizenship.

The comprehensive law would, however, bring the undocumented under federal labor law protection as soon as they register for provisional “blue cards.”

That would lessen their exploitation, let unions organize them, and reduce the capability of venal, vicious employers to threaten to fire workers and hire undocumented replacements to stop organizing drives and drive down all workers’ wages and living standards.

The Senate passed comprehensive reform last year, but the GOP-run House refuses to even consider it, preferring punishment .  So Obama turned to administrative action.

Supporters of administrative action note that in 2012, Obama was able to stop the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults under the program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  The idea is that a program like DACA, but only bigger, would allow the millions more of undocumented immigrants to work legally in the U.S. without having to fear expulsion from the country. The AFL-CIO has long argued for DACA expansion, too.

In arguing for more Obama administrative action, Trumka hit hard at the disastrous impact of U.S. immigration policy on families.

“Too many families have been separated because of our broken immigration system,” he declared. “Tragically, this heartbreak happens every day because Congress had failed to act on a common-sense immigration process.”  He said the fed launched the petition because the AFL-CIO does not expect the House’s ruling Republicans will ever be serious about on immigration reform.

“The crisis at worksites around the country and in our neighborhoods continues and just can’t wait any longer.  It is downright silly to hold out hope House Republicans will suddenly rediscover their hearts and realize it’s important to have a values-based immigration system.”

Trumka also said he personally told Obama that administrative action to help the 11 million undocumented people “is the right thing to do.  Every possible step that could be taken should be taken.”

Foes of immigrants, and of Hispanics, say the undocumented take away U.S. jobs.  Trumka says that’s wrong.  “We stand up for immigrant rights because there are jobs on the table – like the 800,000 new jobs created by immigration reform.  We fight like hell for every single one,” he said.  Immigration “is about work, about making a better life.”

-PAI