Unions blast immigration ruling; vow to stand with immigrant workers

Two unions have condemned a ruling by a federal judge that temporarily halts implementation President Obama’s executive order on immigration reform.

In November President Obama issued an executive order giving 4 to 5 million immigrant workers living in the US without immigration documents an opportunity to come out of the shadows and live and work in the US with dignity and without fear.

Judge Andrew Hanen on February 16 issued a temporary injunction halting implementation of procedures that would allow immigrant workers to apply for work permits, which would give them legal status in the US and relieve them of the fear of being arrested and deported.

The procedures for applying for work permits were to become effective on February 18, but for now, those procedures are on hold.

UNITE HERE and SEIU both issued statements criticizing Judge Hanen’s ruling and said that they would continue working with immigrant workers to help them achieve fair treatment on their jobs.

They also said that they expected Judge Hanen’s decision to be reversed on appeal and that they would continue to help immigrants apply for work permits when the judge’s injunction is lifted.

Elana Durazo, a UNITE HERE vice president, said that hundreds of thousands of UNITE HERE members work in the hospitality industry and that immigrant workers are the backbone of the hospitality industry.

“They shouldn’t have to live or work in fear,” said Durazo.

Durazo pointed out that some employers use immigrant workers’ lack of legal status to prevent them from getting fair pay and good benefits.

As an example, Durazo pointed to Cristan Torres, a college cafeteria worker, who was fired for trying to organize a union.

Before Torres started standing up for better pay and better working conditions, his employer wasn’t concerned about whether he had proper immigration documents.

But after Torres became an open union supporter, his employer used his lack of immigration documents as an excuse for firing him.

UNITE HERE was able to get his job back and keep him from being deported.

“We’re here to stand with workers like Cristian and thousands more working in hospitality, who only want an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families,” said Durazo. “It’s time for out-of-touch, anti-immigrant politicians to end these political stunts and stop playing games with people’s lives.”

Rocio Saenz, an SEIU vice president, urged immigrants affected by Judge Hanen’s injunction to “continue to compile information and documents you will need (to apply for work permits).”

Saenz called the judge’s ruling a temporary disappointment rather than a setback and said that “the law is on the side of (President Obama).”

President Obama said that the Justice Department would appeal Judge Hanen’s injunction.

“This judge and his right-wing backers can’t bend the law to their personal will,” said Saenz. “They stand on the wrong side of history and justice. The law is on the side of the President, who has broad authority to determine immigration enforcement policy.”

Saenz called immigrant workers “a part of the greater American family” and was optimistic that justice for immigrant workers would prevail.

“Immigrant families are not the enemy,” said Saenz. “We are confident that justice will prevail as this case moves through the court system and that the relief granted by the president will take effect to the benefit of millions of families.”



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