Says the things I want to hear. Highlights:
Immigration to the United States is part of a larger picture—the picture of how we are getting globalization wrong. There is no better way to understand that than to look at what has happened between the United States and Mexico since NAFTA was implemented in 1994.
NAFTA was sold to the American public on the idea that increasing trade with Mexico would create good jobs in both countries and slow the flow of undocumented workers coming to the U.S. from Mexico.
Instead, inequality has grown and workers’ rights have eroded in both the U.S. and Mexico since NAFTA’s passage. And illegal immigration flows have tripled.
Today we treat our relationship with Mexico as if it were a national security problem—solvable with military aid and a militarized border. And that is a dangerous mistake. The failures of our relationship with Mexico represent a failed economic strategy. They cannot be solved with guns and soldiers and fences. They must be addressed through an economic strategy for shared prosperity based on rising wages in both countries.
Instead, at the heart of the failure of our immigration policy is an unpleasant fact, one that you almost never hear talked about openly: Too many U.S. employers actually like the current state of the immigration system—a system where immigrants are both plentiful and undocumented—afraid and available. Too many employers like a system where our borders are closed and open at the same time—closed enough to turn immigrants into second-class citizens, open enough to ensure an endless supply of socially and legally powerless cheap labor.
Our immigration system makes a mockery of the American dream. The people doing the hardest work for the least money have no legal protections, no ability to send their children to college, no real right to form a union, no economic or legal security—no way to turn their contributions—their years of hard work—into the most fundamental right of all, the right to vote. That is intolerable for a democracy.
And yet today I hear from working people who should know better, some in my own family – that those immigrants are taking our jobs, ruining our country. Haven’t we been here before?
When I hear that kind of talk, I want to say, did an immigrant move your plant overseas? Did an immigrant take away your pension? Or cut your health care? Did an immigrant destroy American workers’ right to organize? Or crash the financial system? Did immigrant workers write the trade laws that have done so much harm to Ohio?
As President of the AFL-CIO, my message to working people is that we all are bound together by our lives as workers, our dreams for our families, and our hopes for this country’s future. The labor movement stands for giving all workers in America the right to dream the American Dream.