Labor And NYC Officials Oppose Immigration Bill Provisions

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As details of the proposed White House-Senate immigration deal have been reaching the public, the Hispanic Federation and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, joined by elected officials and community and labor leaders from across New York State, took to the steps of City Hall to denounced major provisions in the immigration proposal and declare that they believe Washington, DC is taking the American people in the wrong direction.

They called on the nation’s leaders to change course immediately and embrace a much more inclusive, just, and pragmatic immigration reform plan.

According to the details of the bill released last week, the White House-Senate immigration bill would: create a punitive and restrictive path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the United States; end the nation’s long tradition of immigration via family petition and replace it with a point system that would disfavor low-income working immigrants; and, establish a temporary worker program that would create a permanent, voiceless underclass of workers who would be unable to legally put down roots in the US.

"The present immigration proposal is not acceptable on many fronts,” said Sonia Ivany, President of the NY Chapter of the Labor Council on Latin American Advancement. “In particular, labor unions and immigrant workers cannot accept a system that's founded on inequality and will create a large temporary workforce devoid of worker rights."

“If this bill is passed in its current form, it will divide our families, hurt our communities, and weaken our nation,” added Moises Perez, President of Alianza Dominicana. “We cannot support a bill that turns its back on family reunification, worker’s rights and provides an unfair and unworkable legalization process for our immigrants.”

Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, President of the Hispanic Federation, stated that while they appreciate the effort that a group of bipartisan senators have made to advance comprehensive immigration reform, they cannot back legislation that creates unnecessary and onerous fees and restrictions that would preclude far too many undocumented immigrants from coming out of the shadows.

One of the speakers who drew cheers was John Delgado, Business Manager of Union Local 79, which represents construction and general building laborers. Pointing to City Hall behind him, he said it was built by immigrant labor – as are so many other building throughout the City. “This bill is a slap in the face of all the immigrants who have sacrificed their lives to build what we have today,” Delgado declared. “Shame on those people in Washington! And the awful thing is that some of them are immigrants themselves who have forgotten where they came from. Someone should smack them on the head and wake them up.”

New York State Assemblymembers Jose Rivera, Adriano Espaillat and Jose Peralta also expressed their objection to the legislation. Peralta focused attention on the requirement that heads of households – who usually support the family financially - return to their countries of origin and re-enter. “It’s a setup,” Peralta stated. “With the main breadwinner gone, the rest of the family probably won’t be able to support themselves and will be forced to leave too.”

Council Members Diana Reyna, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Melissa Mark Viverito, and Letitia James stood up to be counted as well. Kendall Stewart, Chair of the City Council Committee on Immigration, himself an immigrant, said in an interview that although they welcome negotiations to come up with a new immigration plan, the current plan “has too many areas where there is no real justice for immigrants.”

He said that it places so many financial hardships in terms of fees, fines, and travel expenses that most immigrants wouldn’t be able to come up with that much money. “And if a person had a job here and they’re made to return to their country of origin to get a visa, what guarantee do they have that it will be expedited and they will get to come back and continue their jobs? The fact is,” Stewart concluded, “we need to come up with a much better plan to help immigrants because they are the backbone of places like New York City.”

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