Years of organizing, mobilizing and courageous actions by immigrants and their allies have finally given way to relief for millions of our friends and neighbors through the president’s historic executive action on immigration. While the relief is limited and temporary, it should be recognized as important progress toward fixing our broken immigration system.
One highlight of the administrative action is the plan to offer work permits to an estimated four million individuals. The ability to work with authorized status is the single most important protection for immigrants because it ensures that bad employers can’t use the threat of immigration enforcement to retaliate against employees.
Now, millions of men and women will no longer have to live and work in fear or risk being separated from their families for speaking out against illegally low wages and dangerous working conditions. That’s good for all workers – citizen and immigrant alike – and for decent employers who play by the rules.
The president’s action could help people like Anabel Barron, a mother of four whose children were born in Lorain, Ohio. Anabel has worked in several different jobs since moving to the United States 16 years ago, and currently works as a medical interpreter.
“When I found out I started crying. I was in tears. Not for me, but for all the families who will qualify. This means many of my friends and neighbors will be able to ask for better jobs without being scared. Before I was just hiding in the house. And now people like me can now go outside without being fearful of the police and can get more involved in the community without worrying if they will be taken away. This is going to change a lot of lives.”
Community and labor organizations will play an important role in making sure immigrants and their families have access to critical information and can apply for relief. Jobs With Justice will help by bringing together community and labor partners to reach workers who might not otherwise have access to crucial support. Together, we can ensure that those who have toiled in the shadows of the economy know that there is a movement of people ready to fight for their rights on the job.
Even as we recognize the significance of this executive order, more must be done. Ultimately, Congress must do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. And we will keep up the fight for a bill that offers a path to citizenship for all 11 million, strong worker protections, and temporary foreign worker visa programs that respond to the needs of the labor market, not the wishes of corporate campaign donors.
While we wait for Congress to act to provide a permanent solution, Jobs With Justice will continue to stand with men and women and their families who will not qualify for relief under the president’s actions and who will not be spared the injustice of the current system. We will hold ICE accountable to ensure the agency does not interfere with workers who exercise their rights through our leadership in the POWER Campaign. We will advocate for critical protections for vulnerable care workers through our work with Caring Across Generations. And we will continue rallying with urgency to stop unjust deportations of our fellow community members.
For more information on the president’s executive order please visit the National Immigration Law Center’s info page.