June 27, 2013

Statement on Senate Passage of S. 744

Ori Korin, 202-822-2127 x126

Washington, D.C. – Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work issued the following statement: following the U.S. Senate’s vote on the immigration reform bill:

“The passage of the bipartisan immigration reform bill marks a historic, but no less bittersweet moment for our nation. The legislation takes us two steps forward on realizing a long-awaited roadmap to citizenship for millions of immigrants and securing stronger labor protections for all workers. Yet S. 744 takes our country a step backwards with its bloated enforcement provisions.

“Nothing less than access to citizenship will provide a solution to the lack of rights and dignity that has plagued our country under the current immigration system. The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” S. 744, finally provides us with a broad pathway to citizenship.  It will bring millions of people out of the shadows, create an accelerated path for Dreamers, and eliminate the family visa backlog to allow deported parents to reunite with their families.

“S. 744, will also raise the floor for all workers and boost our economy. The Senate immigration bill’s specific inclusion of protections for workers who are victims of serious workplace abuse, exploitation, or retaliation is a huge victory for immigrant and U.S. workers alike. Drawn from a previous bill called the POWER Act, these provisions allow immigrant workers to blow the whistle on exploitative employers without fear of deportation. Too often, employers use threats of retaliation and deportation to silence immigrant whistleblowers and get away with abuse. Immigrant workers become trapped in captive labor, and U.S. workers are trapped in a race to the bottom as employers coercively use immigration status to drive down wages and conditions for all.

“S. 744 also improves the foreign labor recruitment process for workers who far too often encounter fraud, coercion, and exploitation by increasing transparency and employer accountability within the system. Additionally, the bill creates a new “W visa” program with a rational solution for addressing temporary labor shortages — determining the need for foreign labor through market data, rather than setting a cap to please the wishes of the business lobby. Such a nonpolitical process should be extended to other employment visa programs. It also offers important protections that will minimize the exploitation of foreign workers.

“That withstanding, the provisions of S. 744 expanding e-verify, border security, and obstacles in the pathway to citizenship are unnecessary, inequitable, and inhumane. Further, the expansion of an exploitative guestworker system is a truly bitter pill. The Senate sold out U.S. workers and future graduates in STEM fields by granting high-tech firms the ability to recruit H-1B guestworkers without attempting to hire equally or better qualified U.S. workers. Labor protections must be included in immigration reform or nearly every worker — no matter where they were born — stands to lose.

“Our nation’s broken immigration and labor law systems have extracted too much of a toll on working families. But enough is enough. The status quo is unacceptable, and the bill’s accomplishments on a path to citizenship and worker protections get us past that.  But the concessions and horse-trading that resulted in expanded guestworker and enforcement provisions greatly limit that advancement.

“Workers’ rights advocates will not rest until our nation’s leaders have adopted a meaningful immigration reform bill that works for workers and employers alike. Immigration reform policies need to usher in a fair, broad, and inclusive roadmap to citizenship; fundamental labor rights, remedies and whistleblower protections for all workers now and in the future; and an improved guestworker program. Our coalitions and allies will be pressing hard for their representatives to take strong position supporting these bottom lines for workers.  It’s time to move this bill, and move our nation forward.”

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