America’s Unions Are Clear and Undaunted: Pathway to Citizenship Is Essential for a Just Recovery

America’s Unions Are Clear and Undaunted: Pathway to Citizenship Is Essential for a Just Recovery

The AFL-CIO and our affiliate union leaders from all sectors of the economy are making it clear: Congress has a historic opportunity to create good jobs and a clear pathway to citizenship for millions of working families, and we expect it to deliver. Immigrants have been, and will continue to be, key to the economic growth and recovery of this country. After nearly 35 years of enforcement-only immigration policies, Congress must finally act to expand rights and protections through broad citizenship provisions. The best way to strengthen our democracy and our economy is by empowering workers, with no exclusions, and the time to do that is now.

Leaders across the movement for the rights of working people explained why the approach that expands rights is the best pathway forward. Here’s what they said:

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler: “America’s unions are fiercely committed to transforming the lives of working people through bold, structural changes that remove all barriers to the right to organize, and we can’t do that without reforming our immigration system. A broad, inclusive pathway to citizenship will help to raise standards for all workers and should be considered a core component of our economic recovery.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond: “The pandemic has revealed the systemic undervaluing of work that is essential for our survival. The majority of front-line work in our country is performed by women and people of color, many of whom face structural racism and threats from an inhumane immigration system. Now is the time to address these core failures. Enacting a clear path to citizenship and passing the PRO Act is how we end these structural injustices.” 

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre: “Successive waves of immigrants and refugees, like myself, have always helped to build, serve and feed our nation. Today is no different. America’s unions are calling on Congress to take decisive action to extend permanent protections for all working families. Our nation’s economic growth must be inclusive to all, so unions will continue to fight until we win rights on the job and in the community for everyone who lives and works here.” 

Eric Dean, Ironworkers general president and AFL-CIO Immigration Committee chair: “Workers in the construction industry are affected by our broken immigration system whether they are native born or not, and ironworkers are no exception. Legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders will level the playing field and help every worker band together and choose a union.” 

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW: “Our country was founded by immigrants, flourished economically because of the labor of immigrants, and over the last 18 months, we have been fed and cared for by immigrants who are a vital part of our frontline workforce—many of them RWDSU members. After decades of promise, we finally have a real opportunity through the budget reconciliation process to create a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who have made our country stronger. Let’s be broad, inclusive and pass legislation that brings all undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, grants them equal rights under the law and allows them to openly and freely contribute to our economic recovery as they strive to achieve their own American Dream.”

Matt Biggs, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers: “Among the young immigrants, students, neighbors, family and coworkers who are seeking an opportunity to become citizens are current and future IFPTE members and leaders. Our union strongly supports a Build Back Better Act that includes pathways to citizenship and permanent residence for DACA and TPS recipients, for workers stuck in the green card backlog, and for those who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.” 

Evelyn DeJesus, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers: “This must be the year we deliver on a roadmap to Citizenship for our DACAmented members, our families, our communities, and the students and patients we serve. For far too long, immigrant workers, TPS and DACA beneficiaries have been living court decision by court decision. The ruling by Judge Hanen against DACA made it absolutely clear that only a permanent legislative solution passed by Congress will eliminate the fear and uncertainty that DACA recipients, TPS holders and other immigrants have lived with for years. Enough is enough. Our students, our directly impacted members, our immigrant families, and communities deserve nothing less than the freedom to thrive.”

Jennifer Dorning, president of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO: “Union professionals have a range of backgrounds, nationalities, and immigration experiences—including DACA recipients, TPS beneficiaries, and undocumented immigrants. These working people are our colleagues, our neighbors, and our friends, and they are Americans in every way except on paper. The budget reconciliation process provides us with an opportunity to deliver stability and certainty to these people who contribute everyday to our country’s progress. Now is the time to provide them with a pathway to citizenship.”

Tim Driscoll, general president, Bricklayers: “Immigrants are an integral part of our economy and our union, much like this country, was founded by immigrants. They have worked tirelessly to build this country and have risked their lives working on the frontlines of this pandemic. TPS and DACA recipients have worked and lived in this country for many years, paying taxes and supporting their families. To ensure we can meet the needs of tomorrow, we urge Congress to do the right thing and provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who have been left in the shadows for far too long.”

Cindy Estrada, vice president of the UAW: “It is no secret that our nation’s immigration system is broken and does not reflect our basic national or UAW values of family unity and security. It is long past time for Congress to take action to ensure TPS holders, Dreamers, farmworkers and frontline workers should not be subject to punitive immigration policies that break families apart. It is important to remember that our union’s mission to support social and economic justice for all workers was directly influenced by thousands of immigrants who arrived in Detroit and other cities after the turn of the 20th century to work in the auto industry. These brave workers participated in the sit down strikes and other worker actions that have distinguished our union as a fearless fighter for workplace democracy.”

Enrique Fernández, vice president of Immigration, Diversity and Civil Rights, UNITE HERE: “The House Judiciary Committee has made a critical step forward to protect millions of workers whose home is here. During the pandemic we’ve seen how essential hospitality workers have been to build back the economy. They deserve permanent status to stay with their families. Our fight will continue until we are able to put an end to the fear of deportation and finally provide a path to citizenship.”

Robert Martinez Jr., international president of the Machinists: “Politicians in Washington must come together to solve the immigration crisis in our nation. Passing comprehensive immigration reform will give all workers the labor rights they deserve and help raise wages across all industries. The Machinists Union fights to ensure that all of our members have respect and dignity in the workplace. The IAM will fight to raise workplace standards for all workers by advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.” 

Elissa McBride, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME: “The failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform has left undocumented immigrants vulnerable and unable to speak out about dangerous working conditions, demand a fair wage or access medical care for fear of deportation. Congress must finally provide a pathway to citizenship that recognizes the boundless contributions immigrants have made to our communities and allows families to come out of the shadows. It will strengthen our economy, it’s widely supported, and most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”

Yanira Merino, national president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement: “Including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants through budget reconciliation is a critical step towards building back better, which depends on a thriving working class. And we won’t achieve this goal until every worker, including DREAMers and TPS holders, can exercise all their labor rights and enjoy the stability associated with residency and citizenship. That is why we must ensure that a pathway to citizenship survives the reconciliation process and is voted into law.”

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers: “LIUNA urges Congress to stop delaying on comprehensive immigration reform and to provide a path to citizenship for the millions of working families, many of whom work in the construction industry, who have built lives here in the United States, raising families and paying taxes and social security.”

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee: “1986 was the distant past—and the last time Congress allowed a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented people. We must push Congress to end 36 years of inaction and finally bring millions of hard working immigrants, including farmworkers, out of the shadows and into the mainstream of the American Dream.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “We are a nation of immigrants. Today, immigrants living in the United States are educators and bus drivers, nurses and respiratory therapists, grocery and farm workers—frontline, essential workers who have shown up for us every day, particularly in the last year and a half, risking their own health, as we grapple with COVID-19 and its effects. As a union, we are committed to fighting for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants because we know that immigration reforms provide economic stability and a pathway to a better life for so many working families. Congress must take action to permanently protect undocumented people—not just DACA recipients, but all 11 million undocumented people living in this country.”

James Williams Jr., general president of the Painters and Allied Trades: “Thousands of our members are living and working in the United States under Temporary Protected Status. Tens of thousands more immigrants are working in our industries as non-union workers and they are among the most heavily exploited workers in the construction trades. The only way we can stop the exploitation of these workers is by giving them a realistic path to citizenship. Even those fortunate enough to have TPS live with constant anxiety that the programs will be terminated. Now is the moment to establish pathways to citizenship for all of these workers. We are calling on Congress to get it done.”

Alvina Yeh, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance: “Because of this nation’s failure to reform immigration, many AAPI workers face threats of deportation. Undocumented AAPIs have been separated from their families and loved ones for decades because of unjust immigration laws. We need a pathway to citizenship through reconciliation because this might be our only chance. AAPI workers have waited for too long, and Congress must act now.”

Kenneth Quinnell
Mon, 09/20/2021 – 11:07

Updated: September 23, 2021 — 2:06 pm