NEW YORK – Top national and local labor leaders, Congress members, city elected officials, business leaders and advocates today urged Congress to pass — and President Obama to sign — a common sense immigration reform bill this year.
“The labor movement has no higher priority in 2013 than to build a workable immigration system that will allow more than 11 million aspiring Americans to become citizens,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.
Trumka was joined by Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke and other elected officials and advocates in calling for comprehensive immigration reform at a press conference in the Red Room at City Hall.
“Working families have suffered far too long at the hands of a broken immigration system that divides our strength, exploits workers, and fails to live up to our values as a nation of immigrants,” Figueroa said. “We are here today to send the message that we need reform that delivers a timely, fair and affordable path to citizenship, and we need that reform now.”
The press conference preceded a 1 p.m. hearing before the Immigration Committee at 250 Broadway. Labor leaders, business owners and advocates, including New Yorkers for Real Immigration, a coalition of 150 business, faith, labor and grassroots organizations, are expected to testify. They will urge the City Council to approve an Immigration Reform Resolution calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“The United States was founded on the hopes and initiative of immigrants, however today, more than 11 million undocumented immigrants confront an uncertain future,” Quinn said. “Congress must avoid partisan divides and join together in passing comprehensive immigration reform that would open up a path to citizenship, while ending unnecessary deportations that are breaking up too many families and weakening our workforce.”
Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said: “Restrictive U.S. immigration and visa policies are putting our employers at a competitive disadvantage in attracting the top, global talent that made New York the world’s capital for business. Other countries are using immigration policy as part of their economic development and job growth policy, while we are doing the opposite. We need Congress to enact common sense, comprehensive immigration reform now.”
The hearing comes days before a series of actions across the Metropolitan area and Washington, D.C., calling for immigration reform. On Saturday April 6, 32BJ SEIU and its partners expect to have 10,000 people at an immigration rally in Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
Four days later, on April 10, tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on the West Lawn of the Capitol to send a message to Congress and President Obama that common sense immigration reform is necessary and should be enacted this year.
Rep. Velázquez (D-NY) said: “Fixing our broken immigration system is the social justice issue of our time. All of us must raise our collective voices to demand reform now.”
“The New York Immigration Coalition is pleased to stand with Speaker Quinn and the City Council to call on Congress and President Obama to enact fair and humane immigration reform,” said Guillermo Chacon, vice-chair of the board of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We look forward to working with our leaders in Washington in the coming weeks to pass an immigration bill that prioritizes families and opens up a meaningful pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the shadows.”
“Immigration might be a complex matter, but when there are lives, people and families at the center of the discussion in reality what we are dealing with is a human rights issue that cannot be delayed anymore. The time for immigration reform is overdue,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. “We have heard enough about a system that is broken; now is the moment to act and make it right. The shortcomings in the system have created a parallel world in which the immigrants are vulnerable. Let’s live up to the principle of our founding fathers that all men are created equal and finalize a responsible reform for an integrated society.”
Council Member Robert Jackson, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, said. “Every day people go to work, school and contribute to every part of American society, yet they are not acknowledged in the very fabric of our lives. This has led to restrictions on opportunities for individuals who work alongside us to improve the lives of their families and secure their future. Now is the time to pass a comprehensive immigration reform to end the inequities that immigrants face every day and allow them to completely integrate into the American Dream.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue but the discussion our nation is finally having about this critical issue is very encouraging,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “Fixing our broken immigration system must be a top priority for the new Congress and the President’s second term. Providing a pathway to citizenship, improving enforcement of immigration laws, modernizing the legal immigration system, reducing the backlog and preserving family-sponsored immigration are essential to any overhaul of our nation’s immigration laws. As the daughter of immigrants, I look forward to tackling this vital issue so that millions can continue to achieve the American dream, and I thank the City Council and SEIU 32BJ for keeping the focus on it.”
With more than 125,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.