Legislation that will help to level the playing field in the American construction industry is now getting top consideration in the Congress. Final action could come later this month.
If passed, the legislation should end a decades-old policy that has dispatched over 11 million unauthorized residents to lives in the shadows while forcing thousands of undocumented laborers to endure unsafe conditions and substandard wages at construction sites all over the country. These circumstances put their lives at risk while enabling the ruthless employers who hire them to undercut LIUNA signatory contractors.
LIUNA, which was founded by immigrants more than a century ago and counts thousands of immigrants among its present members, supports comprehensive immigration reform.
“Our current immigration policy leaves far too many undocumented workers vulnerable to employer pressure and permits wholesale worker exploitation that drives down wages and corrodes working conditions for all similarly employed workers – citizens and immigrants alike,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “Comprehensive reform can only be achieved by addressing our archaic visa policy, failed guest worker programs, inefficient employment verification systems and bureaucratic backlogs that keep families apart and create the conditions that allow unscrupulous employers to thrive in our current system.”
President Obama has assembled a four-part approach to immigration reform, but it remains to be seen whether and to what extent the House will address his points.
Key Principles of President Obama’s Immigration Reform Plan:
- Border Security: The proposal enhances cross-border law enforcement partnerships, imposes stiffer penalties for human smuggling, streamlines the administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and increases training and staff of immigration courts.
- Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: The proposal calls for electronic employment verification, fraud-resistant Social Security cards and other documents that prove authorization to work in the U.S., protection for workers against employer retaliation for speaking up, increased penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers and creation of a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that hire immigrants comply with labor laws.
- Earned Citizenship: To be eligible to go to the back of the citizenship line, undocumented workers will register, pass background checks, pay taxes and penalties and learn English. Children brought here illegally can expedite the citizenship process by going to college or serving in the Armed Forces.
- Streamlining Legal Immigration: The proposal calls for visas to be issued to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses and, after graduation from college, to foreign students who have excelled in science or math. It eliminates annual country caps for hiring purposes and raises annual country caps for family-sponsored immigration.
Most Americans favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The Quinnipiac University National Poll released May 31, 2013, shows the support. That said, passage of immigration reform is not guaranteed. Spirited debate on this issue is expected in Congress.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]