October 30, 2008
Washington DC—Immigrant rights are worker rights.
Hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets today demanding rational and comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policy.
The UFCW has been fighting to organize, represent, and improve wages and working conditions for immigrant workers for decades. Meatpacking and food processing were among the first to utilize immigrant labor. In fact, the UFCW has been fighting this battle for more than a hundred years.
We are an immigrant movement. A hundred years ago, Polish, Italian, and Southern European immigrants poured into the nation’s packing plants. Today, immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa work the processing lines of the packing industry.
The U.S. has no national immigration policy. In reality, immigration policy has been privatized. Private employers import and exploit immigrant workers at will with little or no regard for federal law or federal enforcement agencies.
Immigration issues in the U.S. are part of a larger, global trend‑‑‑the systematic exploitation of labor. Corporations export jobs in search of the most exploitable labor pool‑‑‑and they import workers to create a domestic pool of exploitable labor.
Because U.S. trade policy fails to include strong, enforceable labor standards, it has created a vast international labor pool that lives and works without rights or hope for the future. It is a pool of workers that can be recruited, imported, exploited, and disposed of.
To criminalize immigrants in the U.S.—as H.R. 4437 would do—for the failure of U.S. policy is hypocritical and immoral.
Immigration reform must be comprehensive. A constructive immigration policy would respect and provide a legalization process for the millions of immigrant workers already contributing to our economy and society, while protecting wages and workplace protections for all workers. Anything less hurts all of us.