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Comprehensive Immigration Reform

International Executive Board, 2006

WHEREAS:

Reforming our nation's immigration policies emerged as a front burner issue in the first session of the 109th Congress and remains at the top of the 2006 legislative and political agendas of both parties and the White House. Congress is currently considering several approaches to immigration reform, including earned legalization for undocumented people in the United States, expanded guest worker programs to bring in hundreds of thousands of new foreign workers annually on a temporary basis, and increased border security that includes greater enforcement of our immigration laws. But while there is general agreement that the current immigration system is broken, there is no clear consensus of how to "fix" it; and

WHEREAS:

Our immigration policies have far-reaching impact on the U.S. economy, affecting the supply of labor, wage levels and working conditions; on the economies of other countries, principally Mexico; on the demand and costs of public services — e.g. health care, social services, police and education; on our national security policies; and on the very concept of who is an American and who is "entitled" to work and live in America. Today, the fortunes and futures of all workers are linked regardless of immigration status, yet millions of hard-working people who make enormous contributions to their communities and workplaces are denied basic human rights because of their undocumented status; and

WHEREAS:

The current crisis is due to more than simply the failure of our immigration policies. It also results from the failure of U.S. trade and international development policies. Thirteen years ago, Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claiming that it would curtail illegal immigration because it would create good jobs in Mexico. However, just the opposite has occurred. Real wages in Mexico have plummeted since NAFTA was passed, and millions of farmers have lost their land to foreign owned multinational corporations. As a consequence, illegal migration from Mexico has soared and today accounts for three-quarters of all illegal immigrants into the U.S.; and

WHEREAS:

AFSCME is first and foremost committed to protecting its members' wages and rights on the job, as well as those same rights for its future members and workers throughout our country because the ability of unscrupulous employers to exploit undocumented workers drives down the wages of all similarly employed workers, citizens and immigrants alike; and

WHEREAS:

Undocumented immigrants work hard, pay taxes and contribute to their communities and the nation, however they are denied basic human rights because of their undocumented status. Currently, employers are able to exploit the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. by paying them very low wages and sometimes even cheating them out of the wages they have earned; and

WHEREAS:

It is unrealistic to believe that the current population of undocumented workers now living in the U.S. will leave because they came into this country at great personal risk in response to the failure of their home countries' economies to provide them with jobs that could support their families; and

WHEREAS:

Immigrants and native-born workers founded the American union movement to fight exploitation and abuse and to bring about improved working conditions and living standards for all working families. If the undocumented workers who are currently in the U.S. had legal status they could join unions. This would benefit all workers because it would curtail the ability of employers to exploit illegal workers by paying them low wages and denying them workplace rights; and

WHEREAS:

A policy of vast guest worker programs is the equivalent of outsourcing jobs to countries where workers are forced to work for very low wages. Instead of outsourcing U.S. jobs, vast guest worker programs would import workers on a temporary basis to work for low wages here. Vastly expanded guest worker programs will be used to displace U.S. workers with temporary immigrant workers who would have few employment rights and would be paid the lowest possible legal wage. The utilization of a vast guest worker program will therefore depress wages for all workers in entire occupations and industries that employ large numbers of foreign workers; and

WHEREAS:

In a post-9/11 world, we need to protect and strengthen our borders but without permitting discrimination, racial or ethnic profiling, or other abusive treatment of immigrants.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

That AFSCME supports realistic, comprehensive and compassionate solutions to our problematic current immigration policies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

That AFSCME supports immigration reform legislation which provides for an earned path to legalization for the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

That AFSCME opposes any vast expansion of guest worker programs that would result in a continued downward pressure on the wages of all U.S. workers, especially those in occupations that employ similarly skilled workers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

That our current guest worker programs be reformed by the inclusion of more rigorous labor market tests, required prevailing wage levels and the involvement of labor unions in the labor certification process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

That AFSCME opposes the House-passed immigration bill (H.R. 4437) that would criminalize and deport all 11-12 million undocumented workers and build high walls along the U.S.-Mexico border; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

That U.S. trade and development policies also be reformed so that workers in both the U.S. and abroad are able to share in the benefits of globalization and trade instead of being its common victims; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:

That AFSCME supports strengthening our border security in a manner that does not result in abusive treatment of immigrants.