Statement of Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project

“Five million immigrants who live and work as members of our society will no longer have to live in the shadows and work in fear, thanks to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“The president’s actions keep families together and strengthen the economy. Undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents will no longer have to worry about being torn from their children. Workers previously consigned to an underground life of exploitation, wage theft, workplace injuries, and retaliation will no longer be threatened with deportation for speaking up against abuse. And with immigration status come opportunities for better jobs and higher wages, not just for those granted protection but for all workers, as low-road employers will no longer be able to use illegal tools to drive down standards in the labor market.

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“We are also pleased that the U.S. Labor Department will be expanding and strengthening the U visa program, which affords legal status and protections to victims of crime (including work-related crimes) who cooperate in government investigations. And we are heartened by the administration’s demonstrated commitment to ensuring, through the work of an interagency working group, that workers can exercise their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation.

“Immigration is a key driver of a growing U.S. economy. Immigrants’ importance to our economy will only increase as the U.S. population ages and birth rates stay low. We believe these executive actions on immigration will boost local economies across the nation.

“Congress had an opportunity to act on immigration last year, after the Senate passed by a wide margin a comprehensive reform bill in June, but the House not only failed to pass the Senate bill, it failed to even put anything on the House floor dealing with even one aspect of common-sense immigration reform. The American people and those who live in the shadows deserve better than Congressional leaders who dangle the potential for comprehensive immigration reform without any desire or ability to make anything happen. Thus, it has fallen to President Obama to exercise his lawful authority to work with his cabinet agencies to exercise the well-established executive power to set immigration enforcement priorities, and see his homeland security and labor secretaries execute them.

“As important and beneficial as the president’s actions are, however, they constitute a partial and temporary fix. We still need Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

“Our nation’s immigrant history is one of our greatest strengths. We commend President Obama for honoring that tradition by taking this important step to help families who’ve suffered because of our broken immigration system.”

Contact:
Emma Stieglitz
emmas@berlinrosen.com
(646) 200-5307


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