Today's Senate Judiciary Hearing "Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?" kicked off the immigration debate in the 111th Congress. Under the leadership of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Subcommittee heard from an array of prominent witnesses who shared their perspectives on the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Just after 4 p.m., SEIU Executive VP Eliseo Medina gave his testimony at the hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. "The current broken system has given rise to a three-tier caste worker system in America--citizens, guest workers and undocumented workers," said Medina. "This onerous system depresses wages for all workers because, unfortunately, too many employers seek out the cheapest, most vulnerable workers in order to gain a competitive advantage. This helps no one, not American workers, not immigrants, not businesses that play by the rules and certainly not taxpayers who wind up paying for an ineffective enforcement system focused on arresting nannies, farm workers and gardeners instead of stopping drug smugglers, gang members or other larger threats to our national security."
Medina shared his personal story of coming to the U.S. in the 1950s and detailed how seeing undocumented workers and guest workers being mistreated has played a prominent role in framing his views on the need for immigration reform. "I saw this system firsthand with my father and brother and later as an adult working with sugar cane cutters in Florida under the H2A program," said Medina. "These workers are not treated as 'guests' in our country but more like indentured servants."
Medina framed the desires of immigrants and workers in our country, saying that the labor movement endorses a better way to bring in future workers that is based on sound policy instead of politics as usual. He detailed the unified proposal of Change to Win and AFL-CIO to enact real immigration reform that recommits our resources to working towards allowing millions of undocumented workers to come out of the shadows. Check out liveblogging of the Senate hearing on immigration reform at America's Voice here.
New national polling numbers show that the American people strongly support comprehensive immigration reform and expect President Obama to follow through on his campaign promise to address the issue. It's important that the American public understands the connection between immigration reform and our nation's economic recovery. If you need more proof, watch C-SPAN's video coverage of the Senate Judiciary hearing on immigration reform and hear it straight from the mouth of Alan Greenspan, NCLR's Janet Mergulia and SEIU's Eliseo Medina.
[Eliseo Medina's testimony begins at 1:39:30] Read the entire transcript of Medina's testimony here.