Struggle Under Way for Common-Sense, Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Texas AFT’s secretary-treasurer, Louis Malfaro, is among the AFT leaders from around the nation leading the charge for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., today.  The goal of the effort is to pass S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

That effort got a strong boost in the U.S. Senate yesterday as 84 senators voted to bring the bill up for debate and possible amendments on the Senate floor. The two Republican U.S. senators from Texas split on this vote, with John Cornyn voting in favor of the motion to proceed on S. 744 and Ted Cruz among the 15 senators voting against even discussing the bill.

Besides creating a 13-year path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who can pass a background check and demonstrate payment of taxes, the bill alters the system of legal immigration for the future, giving special emphasis to employment-based immigration by highly skilled workers. In addition, a new visa for a limited number of less-skilled workers (ranging from 20,000 up to a ceiling of 200,000 depending on labor-market conditions) would be made available. Importantly, the bill would provide enhanced worker protections against exploitation by recruiters and would ban the charging of fees to workers to get jobs in the U.S. In addition, protection against retaliation for union organizing will be strengthened, with provisions for back pay, job reinstatement, and stays of deportation.

AFT President Randi Weingarten recently reminded policy-makers of the outrageous abuses seen in some recruitment cases, noting the example of 350 Filipino teachers recruited three years ago to work in Louisiana and subjected to threats and extortion. AFT helped these teachers win a $4.5-million settlement against the unscrupulous recruitment agency involved.

As Weingarten put it, comprehensive immigration reform along the lines now being considered in the U.S. Senate not only would prevent such abuses but also would strengthen border security, ensure that children who are immigrants or whose parents are immigrants can go to school without fear, provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., and promote better and better-paying jobs for all workers.

For more information or if you want to join in the effort inside and outside of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, visit this AFT Web site. And click here if you want to send a letter to your senators and representative in Congress in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

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