Why Immigration Reform is Needed in Current Economic Times
Last week, the Obama administration announced its plan to start the immigration reform debate this year. The President plans to speak publicly about the issue next month and convene immigration working groups over the summer.
The news caught great attention from mainstream media, but this wasn’t news for Spanish language media and Latinos. In February, following a pattern of only addressing immigration with Spanish language media, President Obama went on the most popular Spanish-language radio show “Piolín por la Mañana” to reveal his plan to add immigration reform to this year’s agenda. Not surprisingly, his statement didn’t get much attention from the mainstream media.
Opponents of immigration reform claim that reforming our dysfunctional immigration system and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers should not be considered at a time when American workers are losing their jobs. Iowa Republican, Steve King (who in 2008 voted for the middle-class less than 40 percent of the time) stated:
In our current economic crisis, Americans cannot afford to lose more jobs to illegal workers.
King’s argument is flawed.
Our economy is not a zero-sum game in which undocumented workers steal jobs from Americans. As DMI has argued before, it is not the presence of undocumented workers that threatens native-born workers. It’s their vulnerability to exploitation that puts downward pressure on all wages in certain industries—hurting all workers.
The current recession is further exposing undocumented workers to exploitation, giving employers more room to drag down wages and standards for all workers. The country’s two major labor unions understand this dynamic and have just announced their support for immigration reform.
Providing undocumented workers a path to citizenship, especially in these hard economic times, will help ensure that all workers, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed equal labor rights and fair wages.