Bipartisan legislation making comprehensive changes to our current immigration system passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13-5. The committee went through an arduous process of considering hundreds of amendments that many immigration reform supporters worried would weaken the bill. In the end, though, the bill that the full Senate will take up in the first or second week of June reflects most of the priorities the AFT pressed for in recent communications with legislators. (See related story.)
The legislation provides a path to citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans, worker protections and enforcement provisions against abuse of recruited workers, college opportunity for DREAMers—those young people brought to the United States as children—and family reunification provisions.
Several amendments supported by the AFT were adopted by the committee, including strengthened regulation of recruitment practices, new worker protections for women seeking asylum under the Violence Against Women Act, and access for DREAMers to some of the same college financial aid programs that other academically qualified Americans have.
With the victories come some disappointments, for now. In the face of Republican vows to sink the legislation, amendments championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to extend equal rights for gay spouses did not pass.
Going forward, AFT member involvement with legislators will be more important than ever. On May 23, AFT members participated in an Immigration University webinar, co-sponsored by the AFT and the AFL-CIO. They reviewed labor’s framework for comprehensive immigration reform, what’s in the bill, and steps labor activists and rank-and-file members can take in the weeks and months ahead to ensure that the final bill the Senate and the House send to President Obama is one that reflects our goals and values. The AFL-CIO holds regular Immigration University seminars on Thursdays at 4 p.m. EDT. Visit the Citizenship Now website to learn how you can participate.
The AFL-CIO has designated the week of June 10-14 as national call-in days for immigration reform advocates to call their senators. June 12 and 13 will be lobby days on Capitol Hill.
You can find more resources and keep up with breaking news on the AFT's American Dream online toolkit. [Barbara McKenna, Tor Cowan]
May 24, 2013