The 112th Congress will hold the first hearing of its Congressional Subcommittee on Immigration on January 26, 2011.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) believes this hearing should be watched carefully for both its policy prescriptions and the tone it sets regarding immigrant workers. Our network includes more than 40 organizations of day laborers located throughout the country. It is our understanding that the Immigration Subcommittee will focus its first hearing largely on strategies for targeting immigrant workers for deportation through their worksites.
NDLON believes that this focus demonstrates at best, a lack of understanding about how to protect workers’ rights, and at worst, a mean-spirited scapegoating of immigrant workers that can increase bias, dehumanization, and violence.
Immigration crackdowns do not protect workers’ rights or local communities: Crackdowns and raids at the workplace have never proven effective in protecting the rights of any workers, US-born or immigrants. On the contrary, aggressive targeting of immigrant workers facilitates their exploitation by unscrupulous employers, who are only too willing to use immigration status as a threat against workers who might complain. In workplaces where immigrants are exploited, this brings down the wages of native-born workers as well.
In addition, technology-based screening programs such as “E-Verify” are prone to errors and tend to drive undocumented workers further underground. These programs confuse good employers and provide the most abusive employers with an additional scheme to be used in violating workers rights. Piecemeal worksite verification programs only exacerbate this problem by incentivizing exploitation by predatory employers seeking unfair competitive advantage. Immigrant workers and their families, whether documented or undocumented, are a crucial part of the United States economy, and they are members of local communities across the country. Raids targeting workplaces have been devastating to these families and have been particularly harmful to their children. As the new congress pushes the re-set button on an immigration debate that has been on the national agenda for a decade, we implore the subcommittee to take note of the following:
Blaming immigrants for the economic situation of the country will increase violence: Day laborers and other immigrants are not to blame for the financial crisis and the resulting rise in unemployment. However, too often, political demagogues attempt to blame immigrants for the lack of jobs available to native-born workers. Our organization is very concerned about a rise in violence and hate based attacks against the Latino community in general. Across the country, a rise in political rhetoric and scapegoating has resulted in bias attacks against immigrants: in the most tragic of these cases, the murders of immigrants in Pennsylvania, New York, and Arizona.
We ask that the Immigration Subcommittee members refrain from using language that scapegoats immigrant workers. The immigrant community will be observing the hearings closely, to see whether the inflamed anti-immigrant rhetoric dominates these proceedings. It is our hope that the rhetoric at least, will reflect some of the civility lessons that many in politics professed to have learned after recent events in Arizona. Rather than attacking newcomers and turning a nation of immigrants against itself, we ask that Congress listen to the voices of these Americans in Waiting. Over the past year, immigrant families have spoken at various hearings regarding the impact of repressive immigration tactics on display in Arizona. The Immigration Subcommittee would do well to listen and learn from these voices.