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Remarks by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka 2013 Immigration Campaign Launch Event, Chicago, Illinois

Richard Trumka • March 7, 2013

Thank you, Juan [Salgado], for that truly generous introduction, and let me just say that nobody, nobody, has electrified America like the DREAMers have. You inspire me. I’m humbled and honored to stand with you. I admire your courage, and I want you to know that I’ll stand with you, along with the whole of the AFL-CIO. We’ll stand with you whenever you need us. And we’re honored that you stand with us. Thank you again. Let’s hear it for the DREAMers!

Thank you.  Thank you all for coming out today, and thank you for the work you’re doing to push our leaders to turn talk into action.

All of us together -- we’re a pretty diverse group.  But we share something in common. All of us share a basic vision of America. We want fairness and decency.  It’s that simple. We won’t stand for anything less.

President Obama and the Democratic leaders have been pushing for immigration reform for years.  And now everyone seems to be talking about it -- but words aren’t enough.  The time for talk is behind us, sisters and brothers.  Now is the time for action.  Now is the time for real immigration reform, and I’m here to demand that this reform include -- it must include, a workable and clear and practical roadmap to citizenship for every aspiring citizen in America.

Some people want to blame immigrants for America’s problems. That won’t work. Working people aren’t the problem—no matter where we were born, or what language we speak. We never have been.

Immigrants have played a vital role in America for centuries, and it’s something we should be proud of.  When my grandfather came to this country from Italy to look for work, it took him two years to bring my grandmother and mom. It was hard on all of them, and no one should have to endure that, but he did it for the same reason that people do it today -- for a chance to work hard and build a decent life. 

That’s the American Dream, sisters and brothers, fair rewards for hard work.  And America remains a beacon to the world with that ideal today.  But something is broken in America. Our immigration system needs an overhaul.

Right now, today, the United States of America has 11 million aspiring citizens who rent or own homes, who raise families and buy groceries, who work hard, who pay taxes, and do their fair share right here in Chicago, and in thousands of cities and towns all across this country—but who live here as second-class citizens, and something has to be done about it!

You know, and I know,  most big employers couldn’t be happier with the way things are.  They’ve got access to a hard-working, insecure, and underpaid pool of workers. And if those workers make any noise, any at all, about forming a union on the job, or trying to build a better life, those employers are only too happy to prove that deportation is only a phone call away.

That’s wrong.  That’s not American.  It hurts all of us. It weakens us as a nation.  It lowers wage standards for all of us. And we won’t stand for it.

For America to work, hard work must be fairly rewarded.  That’s the foundation of the American Dream.  That’s the ground floor!

That’s why -- on behalf of the millions of working people of the AFL-CIO, I’m proud to say that we demand commonsense policies that reflect America’s best values and our shared commitment to the country we call home.

We don’t want a bunch of useless hurdles to citizenship.  We want a simple system that works, a wide path that leaves nobody behind.

And we won’t stand for failed policies, like the Bracero program, or the guest-worker programs that create a class of indentured workers. 

We’re in it to win it, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

Looking around me, at all of us, it’s inspiring. It’s incredible! We’re powerful! We make the difference.  This is our country! 

We wake America up every day, and we make it run. We put it to bed at night. We answer when it calls.  We do what it takes, no matter what the cost, or where we’re from, brothers and sisters.

We have come too far to be turned back now. We won't back up. We won't back down.  We won't be turned aside, because we know how to win.  We know how to last.  And we will not be denied!  Thank you!

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