The Labor Movement’s Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Source: AFL-CIO and Change to Win, August 2009

Immigration reform is a component of a shared prosperity agenda that focuses on improving productivity and quality; limiting wage competition; strengthening labor standards, especially the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively; and providing social safety nets and high-quality lifelong education and training for workers and their families. To achieve this goal, immigration reform must fully protect U.S. workers, reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers and reduce employers’ incentive to hire undocumented workers rather than U.S. workers. The most effective way to do that is for all workers—immigrant and native-born—to have full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety and other laws. Comprehensive immigration reform must complement a strong, well-resourced and effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers’ rights and workplace protections. This approach will ensure that immigration does not depress wages and working conditions or encourage marginal low-wage industries that depend heavily on substandard wages, benefits and working conditions.

This approach to immigration reform has five major interconnected pieces:
1. An independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need;
2. A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism;
3. Rational operational control of the border;
4. Adjustment of status for the current undocumented population; and
5. Improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.