Dreamers Group to Push for Individual Immigration Bills

WASHINGTON—Taking their cue from Democratic President Barack Obama, one prominent “Dream Act” group – representing undocumented youths brought to the U.S. as children – now wants the GOP-run U.S. House to debate and vote on individual immigration-related bills by the end of this year.

The object, they said on Nov. 20, is to get the measures on the House floor, let lawmakers vote and, if they refuse a vote or vote “no,” face the political consequences.  And the Dream Act, or the GOP version of it, called the Kids Act, would lead the way, said Cesar Vargas, executive director of the Dream Action Coalition.

The coalition’s decision puts lawmakers on the spot on the issue, but also poses a problem for the labor movement, which supports comprehensive immigration reform. Leaders, including Hector Sanchez, executive director of Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement, reiterated their stand for the comprehensive bill on Nov. 14.

A bipartisan Senate majority approved a comprehensive reform bill earlier this year, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, flatly refuses to let it come up.

Immigration reform is important to both the 11 million undocumented people – including 3.5 million “Dreamers” and 7.5 million adults – and to documented workers. Comprehensive reform includes a torturous 13-year path to citizenship for the undocumented, and also immediate U.S. labor law protection for them.  The GOP’s individual bills lack a citizenship path and emphasize arrests and deportation.

Meanwhile, venal, vicious and lawbreaking employers hire undocumented workers and refuse to pay them, partially pay them or deny them overtime pay, and threaten to deport those who stand up for their rights.  The employers also threaten to fire regular workers and hire the undocumented to replace them, unless the regular workers accept cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions.

Pay denial happened to one Dreamer, Arizona resident Jose Patino, who toils in construction.  “I worked for $5 an hour,” he said.  “I didn’t have a Social Security number, so I had to work under another name.  And then at the end of the week, the employer paid me only half of what he owed and said ‘Work next week and we’ll pay you the rest.’”  The employer “also wouldn’t pay overtime” to some co-workers, including his uncle, Patino said.  “But they couldn’t rebel.  This happens all the time.”

To break the House logjam on immigration, Vargas and the Dreamers on the call said they’re willing to debate the Dream Act, or the Kids Act, first.  But the GOP has to publish a Kids Act text so the debate can start, they added.  Despite promises from Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., it hasn’t.  So the Dreamers will target them, and Republicans in California, to agitate for a bill to debate.

-PAI