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Washington, D.C. – “We applaud the president’s announcement that he will use his legal authority to begin to fix our broken immigration system and improve the lives of millions of our friends and neighbors. While his action is limited and temporary, it’s long overdue and welcome. Americans have waited on Congress for years to deliver on the promise of a comprehensive solution – only to watch House Republicans block reform. There is clearly a moral justification for the president to take action. We’ve seen too many families in our communities torn apart by unchecked enforcement. And there have been too many men and women threatened by bad employers with immigration enforcement for blowing the whistle on unsafe and unjust jobs.
The president’s decision to offer work permits to an estimated 4 million undocumented individuals is particularly meaningful. We all know that immigrants are being taken advantage of by companies that have figured out how to evade basic labor standards under our broken immigration system. The ability to work with status is the single most important protection for immigrant workers as it helps ensure that bad employers can’t use the threat of immigration enforcement to retaliate against them. Now, millions of men and women will no longer have to work in fear of being separated from their families for speaking out against illegally low pay and dangerous conditions. That’s good for all workers, citizen and immigrant alike, and for decent employers who play by the rules.
The announced relief could help people like Anabel Barron, a mom of four U.S. citizen children from Lorain, Ohio. Anabel has worked in various 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.’
However we are concerned by the proposed increase in access to temporary visas that employers can use to lower standards. As we have maintained throughout the immigration reform debate, these programs should be reformed, not expanded.
Nevertheless, today is an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system – one that we should celebrate. And yet more must be done. Ultimately Congress must do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. While we wait for Congress to act, Jobs With Justice will continue to stand with those workers and their families who will not qualify for this relief and will not be spared the injustice of the current system. 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.”