AFL-CIO plans national campaign for immigration reform


Jan. 29 in Las Vegas: Labor leaders line the front row as President Obama proposes comprehensive immigration reform.

The AFL-CIO is launching a nationwide campaign to support comprehensive immigration reform, including rallies, radio ads, and worksite educational efforts.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and L.A. County Federation of Labor executive secretary-treasurer Maria Elena Durazo announced the campaign Feb. 7, two days after labor leaders met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office to discuss his proposals for immigration reform. At a Jan. 29 speech in Las Vegas, Obama declared that passing immigration reform legislation will be a priority of his administration.

Obama proposes to strengthen border control and stiffen penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants, while also streamlining the legal immigration system and giving law-abiding undocumented workers who are already in the United States a chance to legalize their status.

“We have to make sure that every business and every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules,” Obama said in Las Vegas. “We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable — businesses for who they hire, and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law.”

The president’s proposals are pretty close to the principles the AFL-CIO and the Change To Win union federation outlined in a 2009 “unity framework” for comprehensive immigration reform.

Obama proposes to set up a process to legalize unauthorized immigrants: If they pay back taxes and fines and demonstrate a crime-free record and proof of having worked in the United States, they could apply for and receive legal residency, and eventually, citizenship.

Other features of the president’s proposal:

  • Protection against retaliation for undocumented workers who exercise their labor rights.
  • A “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.
  • A five-year phase-in of mandatory electronic employment verification, with exemptions for certain small businesses.
  • Issuance of a fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant Social Security card and a requirement that workers use fraud-and-tamper-resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States.

The AFL-CIO campaign will feature events in 14 cities. The first was a Feb. 6 rally in Raleigh, N.C., followed by Las Vegas on Feb. 11 and events in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, St. Paul, Seattle, Miami and Phoenix.

The Portland event will take place 10 a.m. Feb. 19, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building, 1455 NW Overton.


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