Statement | Immigration

Support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Depends on a Broad and Welcoming Path to Legalization: Statement from EPI President Lawrence Mishel

Today the Senate passed the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” also known as S.744. This legislation carries the hopes for legalization and a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized residents in the United States, eight million of whom are in the labor market and contributing to our economy. It is a national shame that those workers are not afforded the basic protections enjoyed by U.S. workers under our labor and employment laws, and that they cannot benefit from contributions to unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.

Legalization will not only benefit unauthorized workers and their families, but also the American workers who labor alongside them in the workplace or in similar occupations, as their wages will rise as well. And employers who play by the rules will benefit tremendously, because they’ll no longer have to compete in a race to the bottom with unscrupulous employers who violate labor and immigration laws.

S.744 makes numerous unfortunate, destructive changes in the immigration system, including additional, wasteful militarization of the southern border, a vast, unneeded expansion of temporary foreign worker programs, and a diminished role for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Whether S.744 deserves our support ultimately depends on how broad and welcoming a path to legalization and citizenship it creates. If all, or nearly all, current unauthorized residents can quickly achieve legal status, we should proclaim victory despite the negatives. However, that goal is very much in doubt due to the onerous, restrictive—and in some cases inhumane—requirements in the bill that unauthorized residents must comply with in order to become legalized. We are concerned that the House will interpose additional obstacles to speedy legalization and tip the balance against the bill. It is already a very close call.

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