Less than a dozen peaceful protestors stood outside of U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman’s Hartford office Friday to express their concern about the immigration reform compromise that will be taken up by the Senate in June.
A number of labor organizers said the bill does not address the immigration crisis, it just creates two classes of workers and depresses wages.
John Olsen, AFL-CIO president, said “this bill creates a massive guest worker program without a real path for citizenship.” He said it gives employers a “ready pool of labor to drive down wages and workplace safety.”
“We can’t have a group of people being exploited,” Olsen said.
The guest worker program in the bill would allow laborers to come to the U.S. for temporary stints without a guarantee they would be able to stay and eventually gain citizenship. In addition it would give a higher priority to skilled foreign professionals and eliminate family-sponsored visa categories.
David Amdur of the American Friends Service Committee said immigration policy must respect and recognize the inherent and equal rights of all family members. He said the current bill does not because it eliminates family-sponsored visa categories and creates a point system that doesn’t allow families to remain together.
Simon Moshenberg, from Yale’s Community Lawyering Clinic likened the bill to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. He said the 1986 bill was “called the Grand Compromise. A bipartisan deal,” not unlike the rhetoric surrounding the most recent legislation.
He said the result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act reduced overall legal immigration numbers, restricted due process rights and access to the courts for immigrants in deportation hearings, and put in place employer sanctions that stripped labor rights for undocumented workers.
Moshenberg concluded that the new bill will create “even more illegal immigration from this point forward, and the immigrants who come will live and work under substantially worse conditions than those who are here now.”
Charlie Fuentes, a Trinity College student from the group Stop the Raids, urged immigrants to look past the slim possibility of achieving legal immigration status. He said those on the political right claim this bill will provide amnesty, but “this by no means is amnesty.” He said if it really was amnesty then “why is the number of detention facilities being multiplied and the number of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) being increased.”
“An attack on an immigrant worker is an attack on an American worker,” Fuentes said. “This bill is by no means progressive. It will help large corporations benefit from cheap labor.”