Editor’s Note: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced its agenda for comprehensive immigration reform recently, outlining its views in a detailed letter to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The following are excerpts from that letter.
Voters in the 2006 mid-term elections sent a strong message to elected leaders that Americans want Congress to fix our failed immigration system,” wrote Andy Stern and Anna Burger, the International President and International Secretary-Treasurer, respectively, of SEIU. “We look forward to working with you in the 110th Congress to pass a workable, effective comprehensive immigration reform package the President can sign.”
The letter identified core reform principles to which SEIU is committed, including legalization, a new worker program, labor and civil rights law enforcement, family backlog reduction, and border security.
“Successful reform mandates the most expansive earned legalization provisions that would make eligible the largest number of undocumented persons,” wrote Stern and Burger. “If only half or two-thirds of the targeted population would be eligible for legalization, undocumented workers will continue to fuel an underground economy, with negative impacts on all workers, employers, and communities.”
The letter added, “We neither subscribe to nor endorse a repeat of the failed ‘guest worker’ programs. Any new worker program must include worker protections including: portability of visas so that workers can change jobs, the right to join unions and have full labor rights, the right to bring their families with them, and the ability to self-petition for permanent residency and citizenship.”
On worker protections, Stern and Burger wrote, “We must replace the current regime of employer sanctions with vigorous labor and civil rights enforcement. All workers – U.S. born and immigrant – must be protected by local, state, and federal labor and civil rights laws – regardless of their immigration status.”
The letter also noted SEIU’s strong support for “all efforts to eliminate the family backlog and increase the number of visas available to reunite families.”
The letter to Senator Kennedy added, “As you know, SEIU represents workers who perform some of our most needed, yet under valued, work – work that is essential to our economy, families, and communities. If (these workers) are good enough to care for our children and aged, cut our grass, and clean our toilets, they are good enough to be given the option to become permanent residents and eventually citizens.”