NCLR Hails AFL-CIO Position On Immigrants
Says Labor's shift could open the door to new laws
Yzaguirre, President of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation's
largest Latino civil rights organization, applauded the AFL-CIO for the policy
change announced at its New Orleans convention yesterday, expressing firm
opposition to employer sanctions and support for legalizing immigrant workers.
"While many individual unions have always been strong allies of immigrant
workers, this policy change makes the full labor movement a partner in the
immigrants' rights movement; we welcome their strong defense of immigrant
workers. We applaud organized labor for taking this wise and courageous
action," Yzaguirre said.
With respect to labor's views on employer sanctions, Yzaguirre noted,
"The AFL-CIO's position makes eminently clear what most experts have known
for some time - our immigration laws are broken and need fixing. It's bad enough
that immigration laws have long engendered employment discrimination; when it
also becomes clear that the INS is being used to suppress wages, encourage
unsafe working conditions, and undermine legitimate union organizing,
something's very wrong. Immigration enforcement was supposed to be a shield
defending labor rights; instead, it has become a sword used by unscrupulous
employers to undercut the rights of all workers."
Yzaguirre welcomed the AFL-CIO's support for legalization of immigrant
workers. "There is widespread recognition of the critical role immigrants
are playing in sustaining the nation's historic economic growth. There is no
rational reason to insist that those whose labor is contributing to our
prosperity must be forced to live in margins of society," he continued.
Pointing out that the AFL-CIO's decision may pave the way for major changes
in immigration policy, Yzaguirre observed that, "When you have business,
labor, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan all acknowledging the crucial
economic role of immigrant workers, its clearly time for Congress to take a hard
look at the excessively harsh laws passed in recent years."
Yzaguirre reaffirmed his organization's support for proper immigration
enforcement, but highlighted widespread: sentiment that immigration laws appear
to be backfiring. "NCLR has long insisted that our immigration control
policy can be much more effective if it focuses on the few unscrupulous
employers who deliberately recruit undocumented immigrant workers because they
are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. It's time to reform our laws to bring
them into line with the realities of our economy and our values as a free and
humane society. This means designing a different - and more effective -
enforcement regime to deter future illegal migration while providing an avenue
to those whose labor supports our economy to come out of the shadows and work
with the full protection of the law."
Yzaguirre concluded with a stern warning to elected officials who continue to
insist on outmoded, restrictive policies. "Clearly, the political winds are
changing. Newly energized Latino voters are insisting on respect, and immigrants
in particular are finding allies who represent a broad spectrum of American
society. It may have been good politics ten years ago to attack immigrants;
those who engage in these politics now do so at their own peril."