Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’

After letter from former undocumented employees, Trump feigns ignorance

Monday, July 8th, 2019
Amid the ongoing immigration crisis in the U.S., President Donald Trump claimed this week that he “didn’t know” that his own properties had hired numerous undocumented migrants as long-time employees.

Asked specifically about undocumented employees at Trump’s numerous golf clubs, Trump pleaded ignorance to The New York Times on Friday.

“I don’t know because I don’t run it,” Trump said when asked about the immigration status of workers at his golf resorts. “But I would say this: Probably every club in the United States has that because it seems to be — from what I understand — a way that people did business.”

Trump’s claim comes amid revelations about a humanitarian crisis within America’s sprawling detentions centers. It also comes shortly after the Trump Organization announced it had fired nearly two dozen undocumented employees from golf courses in both New York and New Jersey. (The Trump Organization also announced it would now be using E-Verify, a governmental system providing information on employees’ legal status.)

Despite Trump’s claims, many of the fired employees, who included maids and groundskeepers, claimed the Trump Organization knew for years about their legal status, but only fired them within the past several months.

One former employee, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala, told CBS News that her bosses at the Trump National Gold Club in New Jersey “knew she was not authorized to live in the U.S. but hired her anyway.”

Now, some of those fired are requesting a sit-down meeting with Trump himself — a meeting the White House apparently has little interest in entertaining.

In a two-page letter addressed directly to Trump, some 21 former employees — all of whom are undocumented — called on the president to meet with them directly to discuss their situation.

We are writing to respectfully request a meeting with you. We are modest people who represent the dreams of the 11 million undocumented men, women and children who live and work in this country. We love America and want to talk to you about helping to give us a chance to become legal.

We know you and your family; we worked very hard to make your clubs a success and to keep your members and visitors happy. You know many of us and will recall how hard we worked for you, your family and your golf clubs. We all took great pride in our hard work and years of service to make your clubs successful.

You know we are hard workers and that we are not criminals or seeking a free ride in America. We all pay our taxes, love our faith and our family, and simply want to find a place for ourselves to make America even better.

But the White House is in no rush to welcome the former employees to a meeting with the president. The signatories received a letter from the White House on Wednesday, noting that they were “reviewing” the letter.

The letter, and Trump’s denials, come amid escalating showdowns between the federal government and undocumented migrants trying to remain in the U.S.

As ThinkProgress reported earlier this week, some undocumented migrants have begun receiving letters ordering the migrants to pay fines for staying in the country. Those letters parallel Trump’s recent threats to work around a Supreme Court ruling and directly impose questions about citizenship on the upcoming 2020 census — and as conditions at detention centers continue to deteriorate.

As ThinkProgress’s Joshua Eaton wrote on Friday:

[C]onditions on the nation’s southwest border boiled over this week, after the Associated Press revealed squalid conditions at a shelter for migrant children near El Paso, Texas; a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found that Customs and Border Protection is holding immigrants in cells that are nearly double their capacity, and that children at some CBP facilities lack access to showers and laundry; and ProPublica revealed a secret Facebook group for Border Patrol agents that included sexist memes about members of Congress and jokes about migrant children dying in CBP custody.

Meanwhile, the threat of deportation hangs over the former Trump employees’ heads.

“We believe you have a heart and will do the right thing to find a home for us here in America,” they wrote in their letter, “so that we can step out of the shadows and not deport us and our friends and family.”

 

This article was originally published in ThinkProgress on July 6, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Casey Michel is an investigative reporter at ThinkProgress. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan, and received his master’s degree from Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, POLITICO Magazine, and The Atlantic, among others. Reach him at cmichel.tp@thinkprogress.org.

On May Day, Working People Across Borders Are United to Build Power

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Throughout North America and globally, May 1 is a day to remember and respect workers’ rights as human rights. As working people take to the streets in communities around the world, a quieter but equally important movement of workers on both sides of the United States–Mexico border has been growing.

Whatever language we speak and wherever we call home, working people are building power, supporting labor rights and fighting corruption—and we’re doing it together.

Our agenda is simple. We oppose efforts to divide and disempower working people, and we oppose border walls and xenophobia anywhere and everywhere. We want trade laws that benefit working people, not corporations. And we want economic rules that raise wages, broaden opportunity and hold corporations accountable.

Nearly 20 years ago, many independent and democratic Mexican unions began an alliance with the AFL-CIO.

We’ve developed a good working relationship. We’ve engaged in important dialogue and identified shared priorities. Now we are ready to take our solidarity to the next level, turning words into deeds and plans into action.

You see, we believe no fundamental difference exists between us. We share common values rooted in social justice and a common vision of the challenges before us.

The corporate elite in the United States and Mexico have been running roughshod over working people for too long. Corporate-written trade and immigration policies have hurt workers on both sides of the border.  We each have experienced the devastation caused by economic rules written by and for the superrich.

Those of us in the United States can see how unfair economic policies have destroyed Mexico’s small farms and pushed many Mexicans to make the perilous trek north or settle in dangerous cities. Many in Mexico are worried about their own families, some of whom might be immigrants in the United States today. Workers in the United States share their concern, especially as anti-immigrant sentiment has become disturbingly mainstream.

The truth is more and more politicians are exploiting the insecurity and pain caused by corporate economic rules for political gain by stoking hatred and scapegoating Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants.

We will not be divided like this. Workers north and south of the border find the idea of a border wall to be offensive and stand against the criminalization of immigrant workers. We need real immigration reform that keeps families together, raises labor standards and gives a voice to all workers.

Instead of erecting walls, American and Mexican leaders should focus on rewriting the economic rules so working people can get ahead and have a voice in the workplace. One of our top priorities is to transform trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement into a tool for raising wages and strengthening communities in both countries.

We’re outraged by the kidnapping and murder of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College, as well as too many other atrocities to list.

America’s unions are democratic in nature and independent of both business and government, but that’s mostly not true in Mexico. A key step in ending violence and impunity in Mexico and raising wages and standards on both sides of the border is to protect union rights and the freedom of association in Mexico.

We’re united. We’re resolute. We are ready to win dignity and justice for all workers.

This blog was originally posted on aflcio.org on May 1, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

Richard L. Trumka is president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO. An outspoken advocate for social and economic justice, Trumka is the nation’s clearest voice on the critical need to ensure that all workers have a good job and the power to determine their wages and working conditions. He heads the labor movement’s efforts to create an economy based on broadly shared prosperity and to hold elected officials and employers accountable to working families.

Migrant Women Bring Voices to Capital

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Michelle ChenAdareli Ponce is a typical working woman in America, but her work experience is not typically “American.” Even though the products of the labor of women like her are everywhere, her story is invisible to many. As the main provider for her family back in Hidalgo, Mexico, the 31-year-old has spent years slogging away in U.S. chocolate and seafood processing facilities. Migration was her chance to escape the entrenched poverty that ensnares so many young women in her hometown, who she says are often excluded from sustainable job opportunities. But the journey has been fraught with hardship and loneliness.

This week, she and a number of other women who have worked in the U.S. on “guestworker” visas went to Washington, D.C. with the bi-national labor advocacy group Centro de los Derechos del Migrante to testify about migrant women’s struggles.

Because most migrant workers are men, Ponce said in her public testimony, “migrant women are commonly excluded and made invisible in debates about immigration.” But they make up as much as over 40 percent of the low-wage immigrant labor force, according to some estimates, and they face gender-specific problems ranging from sexual harassment on the job to the challenges of transborder motherhood.

If migrant women are missing from the immigration debate, they are also excluded from conversations about U.S. women in the workforce, which tend to dwell on white-collar problems like the gender pay gap and the corporate “glass ceiling.” Migrant women face much more basic problems: how to stave off sexual abuse and cope with long-term separation from their children, which compound issues common to migrants of all genders, like crushing poverty or heat exhaustion and toxic fumes in farm fields.

Ironically, migrant women workers have propelled opportunities for middle-class Americans. Moms who work outside of the home can better achieve work/life balance thanks to options like a migrant nanny at home or frozen seafood dinners processed by the industries fueled by migrant women’s labor.

Facing double discrimination as immigrants and women, female guestworkers like Ponce risk being tracked into especially low-paid, exploitative jobs. In this racket, everyone else gets a cut:international labor recruiters who act as shady brokers of coveted visa jobs; U.S. employers who bring in these workers to serve as cheap, “disposable” labor, and big corporations like Walmart that earn fat profits at the expense of underpaid migrants in subcontracted supply chains.

As Working In These Times has reported before, many guestworkers are near-powerless to challenge bosses over labor violations. The recent case of mass wage theft of Jamaican contract cleaning workers in Florida shows how “legal” work authorization still leaves ample opportunity for employers to violate workers’ rights and, due to fears of deportation, leaves many with little legal recourse.
Women in Hidalgo generally are willing to endure the hardship of temporary work in the U.S. Ponce says, because it’s still seen as a better opportunity than any job available to them in their community. Yet Ponce understands why many other migrant women work undocumented. Despite the enormous risks—including sexual violence on the migrant trail, and fraud and wage theft by employers—they are at least not legally indentured to a single employer or forced to return home after a set time.
Speaking through an interpreter during her visit to D.C., Ponce tells Working In These Times that for immigrant mothers, especially parents, the emotional pain of familial separation can rival economic hardships. “Women are the core of the family… In many Mexican homes, mother is also [taking the role of] the father of those children. [Migrant women] experience isolation of being far away from family, and on top of that they have to put up with the mistreatment that they suffer.” Ponce does not have children herself, but sends money home to support her sisters.
But the workers struggling within this system are finding ways to organize. Ponce now serves as an advocate with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, which campaigns in both the U.S. and Mexico for immigration reform that would expand the rights of guestworkers in many low-wage industries.
The Senate immigration reform bill proposed earlier this year respoded to some of the demands of pro-migrant advocates by offering a complex scheme to allow some guestworkers and undocumented migrants an opportunity to obtain legal residency status, with the primary interest of sating labor market demand. That would give the growing population of guestworkers a pathway to settle here with their families.
At the same time, lawmakers proposed major cuts to family reunification visas, curtailing one of the few channels of legal migration outside of the guestworker system—crossing over through the sponsorship of family members already permanently settled in the U.S. The Senate would scrap reunification visas for siblings and institute a new, streamlined visa system that would score an immigrant’s eligibility based on various criteria, such as educational attainment.

Advocates are pushing for preservation of the family reunification system and a more open, humanitarian-based legalization process. Many support the bill’s provisions to expand immigrant’ labor rights, including reforms to curb employer abuses of the guestworker system. But even with those reforms, perilous barriers to family reunification would remain. And for undocumented workers, the process for petitioning for legalization could take well over a decade and involve strict employment requirements and fines, which might foreclose opportunities for women to qualifyyet another gender barrier to setting here and reuniting with family. At the end of the day, whether they start out with papers or not, a workers’ family could take half a generation to become whole again.

That’s too long to wait for the mothers, sisters and daughters who have for years toiled in the U.S. for their families, yet no longer know what their children look like. There’s no provision in the reform bill that resolves the pain of that longing. There are only voices like Ponce’s, which have no grand legislative solutions—just an appeal for dignity in return for all they’ve given up.

This article was originally printed on Working In These Times on October 12, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet, Colorlines.com, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

AFL-CIO Backs Amended Senate Immigration Bill, But Road to Citizenship Must Not Be Further Compromised

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Image: Mike HallThe Senate is expected to hold a key vote today on an amended comprehensive immigration reform bill that maintains a road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans, but also contains changes Republicans demanded to move the legislation forward. We will bring you the results of that vote as soon as it occurs. A vote on final passage is expected this week.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement on the amended Senate bill:

Building a commonsense immigration system that will allow millions of aspiring Americans to become citizens is a top priority for the labor movement in 2013. The Senate immigration bill represents an important step toward building such a system—even though it has become less inclusive, less compassionate and less just since it emerged in April as the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan compromise.

By legalizing millions of people who have been forced to live and work without the ability to exercise fundamental rights, the bill will go a long way toward lifting aspiring Americans out of poverty and raising standards and pay for all workers. But legalization is just the first step: a road map to citizenship is not only about economic fairness, it is also a civil rights issue. At its essence, America is about citizenship: the right to vote, the right to serve in public office and the responsibility to defend America’s values and the Constitution, which guarantees equality, justice, freedom and fairness.

Republicans have extracted a high price for moving this necessary legislation forward. The latest price for Republican support is the establishment of triggers to citizenship that, as Senator Leahy noted, read “like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton” and are clearly designed for one reason, to keep people from becoming citizens. There is no logical connection between achieving maximum militarization of the border and letting people who have spent 10 years in temporary status move closer to citizenship. Indeed, future Republicans afraid of immigrant voters might forestall achievement of triggers in order to deny citizenship to people who have satisfied a variety of conditions, including staying employed, avoiding public benefits and possessing no criminal history.

These triggers are on top of previous compromises of sound policy for Republican support, such as enabling American tech companies to fire local workers in order to bring in less well paid temporary H-1B visa holders. America deserves better.

We expect that we will be better off with the bill than with the continuing, catastrophic deportation crisis that is wrecking workforces, families and communities across our country.

For these reasons, the AFL-CIO urges senators to support this compromise bill—even as we make clear that no further compromise to the road map to citizenship can be tolerated by the labor movement or by our allies. Now it is time for the House to act and deliver a broad and certain path to citizenship.

At the same time, we renew our call to President Obama to ease this crisis by stopping the deportation of those who would qualify for relief under the bill.

This article was originally published in AFL-CIO on June 24, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

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