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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Senate Immigration Reform Debate and 'Hard Triggers'

Working people, including the 12 million members of the AFL-CIO, would like to remind our elected leaders why there is no higher legislative priority than immigration reform, which must include a certain and inclusive path to citizenship and respect the rights of America’s workers.

The threat of deportation leaves millions of immigrant workers subject to abuse by greedy employers, injuring the workers and undermining the entire U.S. labor market. That workplace crisis is a powerful economic argument for citizenship. And yet now that the Senate has begun to debate the bill, we are hearing insistent calls for more border security and the imposition of hard triggers. 

“Americans in all but paper” deserve a certain road map, not an obstacle course based on hard triggers whose true purpose is to significantly reduce the number of immigrants eligible for legalization. So long as they do their part, pay back taxes, pass a background check, go to the back of the line, then they must be allowed to get on the road to citizenship. They cannot be held responsible for border security, and punishing them for any possible future border control failings is particularly perverse in light of the fact that President Obama has presided over record deportations.

We oppose any amendments to the bill that impose hard triggers whose real purpose and real impact will be to close off the opportunity for eligible immigrants to become citizens. Aspiring Americans deserve a certain path to citizenship if they do their part. Anything short of that is unacceptable to the AFL-CIO and will doom the bill to failure.

The Senate needs to shift discussions away from schemes to appease those who really have no desire to pass immigration and back to responding to the urgent deportation crisis and fixing this broken system.

Contact: Jeff Hauser (202) 637-5018

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