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Immigration Relief for Employers, Not Workers

We share President Bush's aspirations for creating a more “rational and humane” immigration system that provides greater dignity and opportunities for immigrant workers in this country. But, the President's proposal yesterday outlined little more than election year half-measures that would do more for law-breaking employers than hard-pressed immigrant workers:

  • The Administration's plan offers no meaningful opportunity for long-term contributors to the American economy to earn permanent residency and citizenship. The plan allows undocumented workers to work legally in the United States for a temporary period but provides no avenue for obtaining a green card, despite their having worked and paid taxes in this country for many years. The plan also fails to address the substantial backlog in approval of family reunification visas.

  • The plan does nothing to ensure workplace protections for temporary workers. The plan makes temporary workers ever more dependent on the employers who sponsor them, leaving them vulnerable to workplace abuses. The plan makes no provision for increased labor law enforcement to improve conditions on the job, and existing temporary worker programs offer no reason to believe that these workers will feel free to report employer misconduct.

  • The big winners under the Administration's plan are businesses that illegally employ undocumented workers. The plan does little more than legitimize a low-wage economy created by employers who do not want to pay American workers good wages and benefits. American companies get to keep their cheap labor without fear of prosecution and need not even demonstrate that no U.S. workers are available to fill these jobs.

  • The plan fails to endorse meaningful, bi-partisan legislation that could implement real immigration reform immediately. President Bush can move immigration reform forward by voicing immediate support for the bi-partisan AgJobs (Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Security) Act and the bi-partisan DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. The AgJobs Act provides long-overdue protections for agricultural workers, allowing them to earn eventually permanent resident status. It has the support of both the agriculture industry and farm workers. The DREAM Act grants permanent residence to children of undocumented immigrant workers who complete high school and go to college or join the military. In addition, the Administration should oppose the CLEAR (Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal) Act, which would deputize local police and public safety officers to enforce federal immigration law, thus delegating a federal function to law enforcement agencies that lack the training and the resources to carry it out.

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