One of the most powerful national unions condemned President Barack Obama when it pledged to openly defy the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent crackdown on illegal immigrants Wednesday.
While amnesty has been a central tenet of Obama’s immigration policy, the AFL-CIO argues his administration has failed to properly help illegal immigrants. The DHS has recently been conducting more armed raids against those suspected of coming into the country illegally. The union has pledged to defy the administration to stop the deportation raids.
“Whether that means providing support for rapid response efforts, helping to ensure that communities are organized against deportations, or identifying places of sanctuary, including our union halls,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “The labor movement will stand strong with Central American refugees until we see an end to these raids and a real commitment to ensuring full and fair legal proceedings.”
DHS Secretary Jeh C. Johnson detailed his commitment Jan. 4 to deport those immigrants who came here illegally. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the same day that the president has not been directly involved in the decision.
“The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have had discussions about some of these matters,” Earnest noted. “But, ultimately, when it comes to enforcement issues, those are decisions that are made by law enforcement professionals. And that’s what the Department of Homeland Security has been engaged in.”
The AFL-CIO has also condemned the establishment of detention faculties to house the recent influx of illegal immigrants. The union notes the administration should designate those fleeing violence in Central America as refugees.
“The shameful response of our government has been to erode due process protections by expediting legal proceedings and to lock families in remote detention facilities with little access to counsel,” Trumka also noted. “These devastating and disgraceful raids have instilled fear in communities around the country.”
Critics have claimed that the administration has done too much to help illegal immigrants. Republicans have condemned the president for bypassing Congress to grant millions of illegal immigrants amnesty. The executive order expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs to include millions more immigrants currently in the country illegally.
Amnesty and a more open immigration policy is also likely to be very beneficial for unions. Once authorized to work, the millions of immigrants are expected to help unions replenish their membership rates, which have been in significant decline in recent years. Unions have already setup training, workshop and recruitment programs all specifically aimed at the millions of illegal immigrants that may be eligible for amnesty under the executive order.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership continues to go down year after year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data is available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent. In 2014, though, the union membership rate fell to just 11.1 percent.
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