Sunday, April 02, 2006

Teamsters Call for Responsible Immigration Legislation

Official Statement Of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa

Yesterday, President Bush toured the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As the three North American leaders continue their summit, they risk creating an entirely new set of ruins as they discuss drastic changes in immigration policy.

Immigration is also the hot topic on Capitol Hill, as the Senate considers legislation that includes a number of seriously flawed provisions. While our current immigration system is clearly broken, the Senate is heading down a course that will only make the situation worse. Most egregious is Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposal to criminalize millions of immigrants and anyone who assists them – from priests to doctors to union organizers.

On a positive note, the Teamsters Union does support measures passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee that include smart border security measures, as well as earned legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers in the country who are essential to our economy and communities.

The Committee's inclusion of the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security (AgJOBS) Act of 2005 and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in its package also marked a step in the right direction. I applaud the Committee members for their hard and tireless work on the legislation and, in particular, Senator Specter for his leadership.

However, Teamsters Union remains deeply concerned about continued discussions – both in Cancun and Washington – of an expanded new guest worker program which would allow millions of new guest workers to enter the country. This proposal is tantamount to government sanctioned indentured servitude for workers, whose rights and livelihoods would be left in the hands of their employers. Historically, guest worker programs have only led to the abuse of workers and the conversion of good fulltime jobs to temporary positions with low pay and poor working conditions.

Earlier this year, with the disastrous implementation of the Medicare prescription program, we saw what happens when profits trump people in the creation of public policy. Congress and the President should make sure that they do not repeat this mistake as they overhaul our nation's immigration laws.

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