We Must Seize Opportunities to Make Immigration Reform a Reality

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO (left) and Thomas J. Donahue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce have joined forces on immigration reform.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO (left) and Thomas J. Donahue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have joined forces on immigration reform. (Photos: Wikipedia, U.S. Chamber of Conmmerce)

“Our current immigration system is broken.”  If you search for that phrase in connection with NCLR, you will get hundreds, if not thousands, of hits dating back more than a decade.  In many ways, the Latino community has borne the brunt of this broken system, but we are by no means alone.  The system does not work for anybody.  And it certainly does not work for businesses or employees.  That was the simple but extraordinary message delivered last week by two of the largest and most powerful institutions in our nation—the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  In an historic joint statement, both organizations came together to call for comprehensive immigration reform that works—for businesses and labor alike.

That’s how important this issue is.  Two institutions that find themselves on opposite sides of many debates realized that this problem was unsustainable and decided to work together to reach a solution.  Their collaboration resulted in a set of principles that should guide all discussions on the future flow of workers into this country.

The concessions are notable, but the common ground is even more remarkable.  The Chamber of Commerce agreed that American workers should always get “first crack” at available jobs.  And the AFL-CIO acknowledged that sometimes there aren’t American workers available to fill certain jobs.  The union agreed that we need to figure out how to respond to the market-driven needs of businesses in a fair and efficient way.  For its part, the Chamber recognized that those workers—and, for that matter, all workers—should have the full protection of the laws governing wages and working conditions in this country.

This forms the basis of the first two principles in the joint statement, which we agree with wholeheartedly.  And we also believe that the final principle would be an important step forward:  creating a system to determine the future flow of workers using technology, the latest data, and, most importantly, commonsense reality.

We salute this thoughtful, frank, and constructive statement.  This action from the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce serves as an important reminder that immigration is not an issue for just one community—it affects all Americans.  If these groups can come together, and if the bipartisan gang of eight in the Senate and its counterpart in the House can come together, then it is long overdue for us as a country to come together and finally put this issue to rest.

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