Immigration “future flow” must protect workers

House immigration hearing stresses need for worker protections

In response to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearings on immigration reform on February 5, 2013, National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) Executive Director Saket Soni released the following statement:

Rep. Judy Chu has put her finger on a critical question in the immigration reform debate: how to protect the basic civil and labor rights of immigrant workers amid widespread exploitation.

“Immigrant workers in my district regularly face exploitation at the hands of their employers,” Rep. Chu said. “They’re threatened with deportation when they stand up for their labor rights.” (See video here.)

Rep. Chu told the stories of NGA member Aby Raju, a guestworker who experienced intimidation, surveillance, and monitoring after bravely exposing the labor trafficking occurring at his workplace, and POWER Campaign member Josué Diaz, a day laborer who faced deportation because he asked for proper safety equipment during hurricane cleanup work.

The struggles of Aby, Josué, and thousands of other immigrant workers against exploitation are why the NGA supports the POWER Act. This bill, which Rep. Chu co-sponsored, would protect immigrant workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights—while protecting the wages and conditions of U.S. workers as well. Without strong labor protections, immigrant workers are trapped in captive labor, creating a race to the bottom for U.S. and immigrant workers. It is critical that immigration reform legislation include strong labor protections, including the right to organize.

Panelist Muzaffar Chishti, Immigration Expert with the Migration Policy Institute in New York, echoed Rep. Chu’s emphasis that labor protections must be central to any immigration reform. Guestworkers must have the ability to change jobs and a path to citizenship, and guestworker programs must allow all workers to enforce their rights, Chishti said.

While too many Republican members of Congress remain fixated on a cruel and broken enforcement scheme, we congratulate Rep. Chu for standing up for labor protections for all workers. We look forward to working alongside her to make them a reality.

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org718-791-9162

BACKGROUND:

  • New York Times editorial on retaliation by ICE in coordination with Aby Raju’s former employer Signal International
  • LA Times op-ed on the POWER Act and employer retaliation against Josué Diaz
  • New York Times editorial on employer retaliation against workers who exposed forced labor at Walmart supplier CJ’s Seafood
  • New York Times editorial on how DHS’s current prosecutorial discretion policy fails to protect workers from retaliation

Rep. Chu at the Feb. 5, 2013 House Judiciary Immigration Hearings

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