Weighing in on immigration reform

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is in the process of considering S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This bipartisan legislation was introduced on April 17 and is now being marked up by the committee as they consider hundreds of amendments submitted to modify the underlying bill, which is more than 800 pages.

In a May 14 letter to the committee, AFT legislation director Tor Cowan reiterated the AFT's goals for comprehensive immigration reform and urged lawmakers to accept or oppose several key amendments with those goals in mind.

"The AFT believes that meaningful reform must bring 11 million aspiring Americans, students and families out of the shadows and provide them with a path toward citizenship," Cowan wrote. "This means students who have worked hard and followed the rules must be given the opportunity to attend college. It means we must strengthen our economy while protecting workers from exploitation. It means we must fix our flawed visa system. And it means we must maintain our long-standing commitment to unifying families as a fundamental component of our immigration program."

The letter signals the AFT's positions in support of provisions relating to young people's access to citizenship through the DREAM Act, to women seeking asylum under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and to protection from discrimination for domestic partners and immigrants in same-sex marriages.

The AFT supports amendments to strengthen effective enforcement of protections against trafficking and abuse of recruited workers. It also calls for the uniform enforcement of worker protection standards, and remedies for labor and employment law violations for all workers, whatever their immigration status.

The letter also lays out the AFT's support for demonstrating that actual shortages exist before allowing the hiring of foreign workers in the United States, and for the rights of H1-B visa holders to self-petition for citizenship and to make their visas portable from one employer to another.

Activist members can learn more details about the immigration bill and why labor is so committed to achieving reform by signing up for Immigration University, a free, hourlong webinar the AFT has designed in partnership with the AFL-CIO, which will be held on Thursday, May 23, 4-5 p.m. EDT.

AFT members have been key advocates in pushing for consideration of legislation to reform our nation's immigration system in the Senate, and our voice in favor of commonsense reform is more important than ever. Please ask members to write to their senators now to support fair and comprehensive immigration reform.

Finally, you can find more resources and keep up with breaking news on the AFT's American Dream online toolkit. [Barbara McKenna]

May 20, 2013