National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Labor groups make the case for immigration reform

October 28, 2009 - Posted by Shuya Ohno


This entry was originally posted on the Reform Immigration FOR America blog.


A report released today by the AFL-CIO, American Rights at Work and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds that the federal government’s immigration enforcement in recent years – including a heavy reliance on raids and often inadequately trained enforcement agents – has severely undermined efforts to protect workers’ rights, to the detriment of immigrant and native-born workers alike.


The Campaign applauds American Rights at Work, the AFL-CIO, and NELP for bringing attention to the stories of immigrant workers whose basic worker protections have been harmed by immigration enforcement activities.  The report articulates just why every American needs comprehensive immigration reform, why local labor chapters like the AFL-CIO of Metropolitan Detroit passed a resolution in support of the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America, and why the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, the two major labor federations have agreed to join forces to support comprehensive immigration reform.


Without a comprehensive approach, short-sighted immigration enforcement actions create a perverse incentive for unscrupulous employers to continue to hire undocumented immigrants who can be deported if they speak out about violations of wage and hour, health and safety and collective bargaining laws.  This in turn hurts all workers and honest employers in America because of the uneven playing field created by employers that actively game the system.


 Drawing on several case studies from across the country, the report offers a compelling analysis of how the division between labor and immigration enforcement has eroded. The report offers a blueprint for how the new administration and federal agencies can restore the balance. You can download the full report here.


 One of the case studies focuses on the immigration raid in Postville, IA in May last year. The report highlights the fact that “…at the time of the ICE raid, at least three state and federal labor agencies were investigating the slaughterhouse Agriprocessors, and ICE knew this…). Incidents of severe worker abuses have been well reported. (See “After Iowa Raid, Immigrants Fuel Labor Inquiries,” Julia Preston, NY Times 7/27/08.) The new report is bolstered by the fact that several supervisors from the plant have already been indicted, and the owners of Agriprocessors are now in court facing trial today.


The Obama administration, the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Labor must all work together in concert to solve the problems as outlined in the report. However, Congress must understand what the American people know: fairness in the workplace can only be restored through a comprehensive reform of the immigration system.  Such reform will be truly comprehensive when it can address the dire need to protect all workers. Reforming immigration is necessary for Federal authorities to achieve the proper balance between enforcing adequate labor laws and updated immigration laws. 

Photo by Libertinus


You can read the Forum’s press release on this issue here.

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