South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council
Principles on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, representing 110,000 union members in Santa Clara and San Benito Counties, is dedicated to championing the rights of all working people in Silicon Valley and throughout the nation. Through our efforts, we seek to empower workers and lift living standards for all.
The South Bay Labor Council has repeatedly and emphatically stood up for the rights of immigrant workers and their families. In 1999 we took the lead in calling for an end to employer sanctions and other policies used to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against workers. In 2002 the South Bay Labor Council supported and embraced the historic Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. Most recently, we endorsed and urged our elected representatives to pass the California Dream Act, which would have opened the doors to college for immigrant youth.
Comprehensive immigration reform that defends the rights of workers, immigrants, and families is long overdue. It is within this context that we adopt the following principles. With these principles we call upon our elected representatives to act in developing comprehensive immigration reform that fully protects and enhances the rights of both U.S.-born and immigrant workers, provides true legalization and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, preserves family unity and reduces the backlog in family-based immigration, ensures that immigrants have the same due process and civil liberty protections as citizens, defends the rights of children, and realistically addresses future flows of immigrants.
As part of the historic Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride of 2003, the labor movement adopted four major demands on comprehensive immigration reform:
Legalization and a "road to citizenship" for all immigrant workers in this country;
The right of immigrant workers to re-unite their families;
Protection of the rights of immigrants in the workplace; and
Protection of the civil liberties of all immigrants.
WE AGREE to the following set of guiding principles for comprehensive immigration reform:
Legalization and a road to citizenship - Immigrants living and working in the U.S. should have the opportunity to regularize their status through a legalization program. Spouses, children, and their family members should have the opportunity to become legalized or to petition to join with their family. There should be sufficient resources in providing the necessary services to ensure no backlog for each program.
Family Reunification - Any legalization program must include the opportunity for the immigrant applicant to petition for his/her family in an expedited process to maintain family unity.
Path to Citizenship - Every opportunity to obtain legal status to enter and/or remain in the U.S. must contain a path to citizenship. We will not support any program that creates an expanded pool of "guest workers" or temporary residents. Petitioners should have the option of becoming a legal permanent resident.
Number of Available Visas - Any legalization program must contain the sufficient number of available visas to ensure that there will not be any backlog from the time of the submission of the application or petition to the final approval and granting of legal permanent residency status.
Visas -The distribution of visas must not create a two-tiered society in which one group of workers lacks basic labor rights. Any existing or future visa program must ensure the following:
- Employment Based Visas - Whenever a worker is dependent upon employers for his or her visa, the opportunity for worker exploitation increases. Therefore, workers should not be dependent upon an employer for his or her visa or the extension of his or her visa. Accordingly, immigrant workers must be able to switch from one employer or industry to another without jeopardizing his/her petition.
- Full Workplace Protections - Any current or future visa program must provide the fullest workplace protections available under the law, including the right to organize. These protections must include provisions that would guarantee the implementation of industry and area specific prevailing wage laws.
- Path to Legal Residency and Citizenship - Any current or future visa program must offer a path to legal permanent residency and citizenship for all participating workers.
Reforming and Improving Labor Laws & Labor Protections - As part of the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform, we must work to reform existing labor laws, policies and practices to ensure that all workers enjoy basic labor rights and can freely organize and speak out without fear of retaliation.
Protect and Advance Civil and Human Rights - We need immigration reform that restores basic civil liberties and human rights, protects our core values of fairness and justice, and defends the due process rights of everyone.
Partnership with Other Countries - Much immigration is due to problems in immigrants? countries of origin. We must partner with other countries to address the root causes of immigration, from economic inequalities to violent conflicts.
WE OPPOSE the expansion of existing "Guest Worker Programs" or the creation of new "Guest Worker Programs" - Any visa program that would deny workplace rights, deny the right to move from one employer to another, deny the ability to bring family members, and deny the path to permanent residency and citizenship will not be supported by labor.