On Thursday, November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a plan for administrative immigration reform that will grant work authorization and temporary legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.
We applaud President Obama for getting on the right side of history. The reforms he announced tonight were possible because millions of immigrant workers raised their voices, and the president listened.
Why these reforms are needed is nowhere clearer than in New Orleans, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement has created a brutal regime of racial profiling-based community raids that have undercut basic civil and labor rights.
Still, the temporary reforms are exactly that. They are not a substitute for full citizenship in our democracy and our economy, and we will continue to fight for a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Because the 5 million people covered by the president’s reform are overwhelmingly the workers at the bottom of the U.S. economy, raising their wages and conditions will be crucial to lifting the floor for all workers in the U.S.
For years, we have exposed how employers in the South and around the U.S. use the threat of deportation as a weapon to stop workers from exposing labor abuse, and as a form of retaliation against worker organizing.
This makes it a major victory that the president’s reforms include expanded protections for victims of trafficking and other crimes who are participating in government investigations, as well as the creation of an interagency working group to “explore ways to ensure that workers can avail themselves of their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation.” When the immigrant workers at the bottom of our economy can organize for their rights without fear of retaliation, it helps raise the floor for all workers.
At the same time, the millions of immigrants not included by the president’s reforms are at risk of becoming a permanent underclass of exploitable workers. Those workers deserve the same fundamental civil and labor rights that we all do—and we’ll keep fighting for them.
Finally, we are concerned that the U.S. will be bringing more guestworkers into the tech sector without fundamental changes to the H1-B visa program that give workers the right to organize and access basic labor rights. We will continue to be a voice for guestworkers and the U.S. workers alongside them.