Saturday, January 21, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

The old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows was proven true on Thursday when a coalition of business, labor and religious groups vowed to fight the 'Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" ( HR4437) on the grounds that the bill, which was approved by the House in December, would bar illegal immigrants already in the United States from achieving legal status.

Representatives of the alliance, made up of the US Chamber of Commerce which represents over three million business, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the 1.8 million member Service Employees International Union, the American Health Care Association, and the 400,000 member Laborers' International Union, said they generally favored the alternative immigration bill co-sponsored by Senators Kennedy and McCain that would permit undocumented immigrants to obtain work visas for up to six years, with the opportunity to apply for permanent residency.

"We are extremely disappointed with the proposal that passed the House last month. It is anything but comprehensive and balanced," said U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue.

The business leader went on to say there weren't many issues where business and labor see eye-to-eye, yet, "We have decided that this is a fundamental and essential issue for the future of our economy and our society….We support legislation that would provide a step-by-step process in which an undocumented worker could qualify for permanent legal status."
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This from the coalition's press release:


Today, leaders from the business community, labor unions, and the Catholic Church are uniting to express their support for comprehensive immigration reform as the legislative agenda on this issue turns to the U.S. Senate.

-snip-

Often identified as a divisive issue, sensible reforms to our immigration laws are actually well within reach. The key will be for the Senate, starting with the Judiciary Committee, to craft from the various proposals on the table a plan that is both bipartisan enough to pass and comprehensive enough to actually fix what ails the current dysfunctional immigration system.

Any plan that fails to address the 11 million immigrants already living in the U.S. illegally is doomed to fail. We will not, cannot, and should not deport these 11 million family members and workers. Nor can we follow the current plan of making life miserable for them in hopes that they may someday deport themselves. That approach, still favored by some after a decade or more of trying, is already a demonstrable failure.

Most undocumented immigrants have been here for a long time; 70% for more than five years. Realistically, we have to entice them to come forward, make themselves known to authorities, and then ask our permission to stay. Therefore, we must create a process by which they can earn their way to the right side of the law. Simultaneously, we must fix our family and employment visa systems to create legal avenues for immigrants coming to join family members or to participate productively in America's economy in the future. Such reforms must maintain American's long history of immigrant assimilation and eventual citizenship for those who choose to make the U.S. their permanent home.

The only way to get control of our borders and put immigration on a legal footing is to create a legal regime more closely fitting the realities of the supply and demand for legal immigration. This will enhance security, elevate the rights of all workers, allow employers to compete on a level playing field, allow for meaningful enforcement, and protect the basic rights of immigrants, whether they come permanently or temporarily.

Donahue's sentiments were echoed by the labor leaders.

"Most times we're on opposite ends of the issue on Capitol Hill, but on this one we are in agreement," Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the service employees' union said of the alliance. "We agree that to fix this immigration system that is completely broken we need to legalize the people who are here and find a legal way for workers to come in the future."

President Terence M. O'Sullivan of the Laborers union said, "To be sure, our borders must be secure ... [But] it is not honest or fair to simply ignore the 11 million undocumented workers who are already here. It is not honest or fair to ignore the severe working conditions too many immigrants in our country face."

The coalition remains divided on one issue. There is not agreement on whether to support a broad guest worker plan that would allow hundreds of thousands of new arrivals to work in the United States as temporary employees. The chamber and the service employees' union support the plan, as outlined in the Kennedy-McCain bill.. The Laborers' union opposes it.

The president of the Laborers' union, Terence M. O'Sullivan, said he thought the coalition could play a powerful role, even if his union opposed the guest worker plan.

"We will not agree point on point on immigration reform," Mr. O'Sullivan said. "But the majority of the major components we do agree upon. And there's strength in numbers."


Sources:

NYT
AP
National Immigration Forum
AP
Market Watch

2 comments:

janinsanfran said...

These unions that endorsed Kennedy-McCain just gave away all their chips before the bargaining started. The "guest worker" ("slave labor") program will only get worse from here -- and they can't organize people who have no legal rights.

This kind of short-sightedness points to racism, frankly. They weren't lookng and just wanted a pending defeat off their plate?

Duke1676 said...

good point the nyt reported:

"Officials at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. have already begun urging senators to oppose a guest worker plan. Ana Avendano, associate general counsel of the A.F.L.-C.I.O, criticized the service employees' union for supporting the plan.

"We're turning permanent jobs into jobs that are temporary, staffed by temporary workers," Ms. Avendano said of the guest worker proposal. "It's really troubling that any labor union is just sitting back and conceding that this is something that needs to happen."

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson, in a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said her group supports the legalization of undocumented workers already living and paying taxes in the United States. But she said there are better and more moral solutions available than the massive expansion of temporary worker programs that serve to provide employers with a steady stream of vulnerable workers.