Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, contribute to the American economy “in very close proportion to their share of the population,” in the 25 largest metro areas, says a new study.
Workplace raids by immigration authorities have “severely interfered with the protection of labor rights for immigrant workers,” according to a new report released Tuesday by labor organizations.
“The single-minded focus on immigration enforcement without regard to violations of workplace laws has enabled employers with rampant labor and employment violations to profit by employing workers who are terrified to complain about substandard wages, unsafe conditions, and lack of benefits, or to demand their right to bargain collectively,” reads the report prepared by the National Employment Law Project, the AFL-CIO, and the American Rights at Work Education Fund (click here for pdf).
The report comes as the Obama administration has continued many of the Bush-era enforcement policies, although work-site raids have been scaled back since the Democrats took over in January. Nevertheless, local police forces with immigration enforcement powers –like Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose federal contract was scaled back— had until recently continued to conduct these operations.
By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
As soon as she took office Friday, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís moved to reverse a rule affecting guest farmworkers that former President George W. Bush had modified in his last days in office.
The changes included eliminating duplication among state and federal agencies in processing applications, putting in place a new wage formula, and increasing fines for willfully displacing United States citizens with foreign workers.
Critics said Bush’s rules would push already poor wages even lower, reduce worker protections, and make it easier to hire foreigners without actually looking for American employees first.
Solís had been among the many critics of Bush’s decision, which was made in December but went into effect Jan. 17, three days before President Barack Obama was sworn in. At the time, then-U.S. Rep. Solís issued a statement calling the Bush rules “just the latest example of how out of touch the president is with working families, especially with Latino families that make up a large portion of the farmworkers in this country.”
On Solís’ first day in office, the Labor Department announced in a statement “the proposed suspension for nine months” of the rule. Solís said in the release:
Because many stakeholders have raised concerns about the H-2A regulations, this proposed suspension is the prudent and responsible action to take.
Suspending the rule would allow the department to review and reconsider the regulation, while minimizing disruption to state workforce agencies, employers and workers.
By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
While her would-be successors are already lining up in Los Angeles, the confirmation of U.S. Rep. Hilda Solís as the next secretary of labor has been held up in the Senate, apparently due to her husband’s tax problems.
As Feet In 2 Worlds noted in December, Solís was one of the three big hopes for Latinos who are looking for greater representation in Pres. Barack Obama’s cabinet. Of the other two, former Sen. Ken Salazar, the new secretary of the interior, is the only one who has been confirmed. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration as secretary of commerce over a federal investigation into his administration’s dealings with a consulting company.
Solís, the 51-year-old daughter of a Mexican father and a Nicaraguan mother, is the latest Obama nominee to have to explain unpaid taxes — although the problem does not arise from her own taxes, unlike the cases of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and the former nominees for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, and White House chief performance officer, Nancy Killefer.
The would-be labor official’s problems started after USA Today revealed Thursday there were 15 outstanding tax liens against Sam’s Foreign and Domestic Auto Center, a company owned by Solís’ husband, Sam Sayyad. A hearing by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was postponed Thursday afternoon to give the administration time to look into the tax matter and report back to the committee, according to the newspaper.
By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión reporter and FI2W contributor
The delay in Congresswoman Hilda Solís’ confirmation as secretary of labor hasn’t kept two ambitious politicians from racing hard to replace Solís as the U.S. representative from California’s 32nd District in Los Angeles.
There is no official election date yet –it has to be set by the governor after the seat is vacated–, but there has already been some drama and controversy behind the scenes between State Sen. Gil Cedillo and Board of Equalization Vice Chair Judy Chu.
First, the potential candidacy of another Latina, State Sen. Gloria Romero, spurred talk of a division in the vote that would cause the loss of a seat that a Latino has held for about 25 years.
But Romero decided instead to focus her ambitions on an obscure race for School Superintendent of California that she had planned beforehand.
Some suggested there had been pressure to get Romero not to run for this seat, and that Hilda Solís herself was behind the effort to get her long-time political ally Judy Chu to succeed her. Solís has not officially endorsed anyone, but it’s widely known that Chu and her have been tight and have supported each other’s campaigns for many years.
Detroit public radio WDET today aired a piece by Feet In 2 Worlds reporter Martina Guzmán on the plight of Hispanic autoworkers and business owners who are suffering the crisis in the auto industry.
From the webpage of Detroit Today, hosted by Craig Fahle:
For decades Latino immigrants have achieved the American dream through the U.S. Auto Industry. At roughly 12 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing work force, Latinos acquired wealth and stability through good salaries, health benefits, union membership and a way to send the next generation to college. Now, all of that is in jeopardy with the Big 3 near collapse. As part of our occasional series, Feet in Two Worlds, WDET’s Martina Guzman reports on what Hispanic autoworkers are experiencing in the wake of the automotive crisis.
You can hear the story by pressing Play below:[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/090114_martina_auto.mp3]
And you can read Martina’s post on the same subject from earlier this week here.
By Suman Raghunathan, FI2W columnist
As the dust begins to settle after the historic November elections, the incoming Obama administration has lost no time in assembling transition teams on a host of pressing issues, including immigration.
The new administration faces difficult questions about the recent focus on immigration enforcement, particularly after the Obama campaign’s promises to reform the nation’s immigration laws in a fair and humane fashion. In fact, one of President-elect Obama’s only explicit references to immigration policy during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was about the harsh effects of immigration raids on immigrant families – particularly on the over 5 million U.S.-citizen children nationwide with parents who are non-citizens.
What’s more, there’s a sense among many immigrant communities and civil rights groups that Obama is indebted to them after a landslide victory among immigrant voters. Strong Latino voter support for Obama tipped the balance against Sen. McCain in several key battleground states, including Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.
By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
On the heels of a much-criticized decision by the Bush Administration to change the H-2A guest worker program, it looks like one of the public officials who spoke against the change is headed to be the new secretary of labor.
California Rep. Hilda Solís, the 51-year-old daughter of a Mexican father and a Nicaraguan mother, was signaled yesterday as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for the labor position.
The Associated Press reported that Obama plans to make the designation official today,
Unions, which contributed heavily to Obama and Democrats this year, expect Solis to be an advocate for them and for workers. They expect her to press for legislation that would force businesses to recognize union representation once more than 50 percent of a company’s eligible work force signs union cards, instead of waiting for secret-ballot elections.
Solís becomes the third high-profile Latino official to join the Obama Administration, after the designations of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as secretary of commerce and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary.