There is a deep and personal reason AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is passionate about enacting immigration reform that provides a real pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants who call this country home. In a post today on Daily Kos, he writes:
When people use the word 'immigrant' like an epithet, I take it personally. I come from a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania’s coal country called Nemacolin. It was not easy when my family came to this country. My parents and grandparents fled poverty and war from different corners of Europe.
Like today’s aspiring citizens, Trumka’s parents and grandparents were easy targets for exploitation. “We were the last hired and first fired, the people who did the hardest and most dangerous work, and the people whose pay got shorted because we didn't know the language and were afraid to complain.”
When the immigrants of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation got to the mines and mills, the people already there said we were taking their jobs and ruining their country. Yet in the end, the immigrants of my parents' and grandparents' generation prevailed, and built America. This is the history of my family, and this is the story of towns large and small across America, places like Seattle and St. Louis, San Antonio and Chicago and so many others.
To those who say today’s immigrants are taking America's jobs, ruining the country and burdening the economy, he asks:
Did an immigrant move your plant overseas? Did an immigrant take away your pension? Or cut your health care? Did an immigrant undermine America’s workers' right to organize? Or crash the financial system? Did immigrant workers write the trade laws that have sent millions of jobs from our shores? Of course not.