Bush immigration policy gives employers more power over workers
January/February 2004

January 8, 2003--The proposed changes in the nation's immigration laws George W. Bush announced Jan. 6 are 'a hollow promise for hardworking, undocumented workers, people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. and U.S. workers alike,' says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. The plan 'creates a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to fully participate in democracy.'

While the Bush plan would give some legal status to undocumented immigrants, it does not provide undocumented workers an opportunity to earn citizenship, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina says.

'Bush tells immigrants you have no right to earn citizenship, but tells corporations you have the right to exploit workers-both American and immigrant. Without an opportunity to earn full citizenship, 8 million immigrant workers and their families will be at the constant mercy of these unscrupulous employers,' Medina says.

Sweeney says the Bush plan 'will do nothing to strengthen protections for wages, benefits and other rights of immigrant and domestic workers and deepens the potential for abuse and exploitation of these workers, while undermining wages and labor protections for all workers.'

Calling the Bush plan 'a glorified guest worker program with no new path to legalization,' Rep. Bob Menendez (D- N.J.) says Bush 'spells out that while he wants their sweat and labor, he ultimately, doesn't want them.' The proposal will be a rotation of human capital, to be used and discarded, with no hope of permanently legalizing one's status.'

Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said instead of pursuing these ill-conceived proposals, Bush should support bipartisan legislation now before Congress, which also has the backing of the employer and immigrant community.

These bills include the DREAM Act (H.R. 1684), which would enable undocumented immigrant high school graduates to obtain college education and the AGJOBS bill (S. 1645), which would provide earned legalization for some 500,000 agricultural farm workers, most of them from Mexico.

The AFL-CIO backs other changes to the nation's immigration laws, including: repealing and replacing employer sanctions with stiffer penalties for employers who take advantage of workers' immigration status to exploit them and undermine labor protections for all workers; reforming, not expanding, temporary worker programs; and reforming the permanent immigration system so those who play by the rules are not penalized by unconscionably long waiting periods.

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