Immigration Reform 2013: 51% Of Union Members Don't Want a Pathway to Citizenship

President Obama is scheduled to meet Tuesday with a group of progressive legislators and activists alongside AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka in an attempt to build labor support for a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.

AFL-CIO leaders have said that the labor union's biggest goal is to get citizenship for illegal immigrants, but some 90% of union members said illegal immigration reduction was important to them.

Union members also edged towards disapproval of so-called "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, with 51% of those polled against a path to citizenship and 47% in favor. Behind closed doors, union and business leaders are trying to hammer out a compromise backing "conditional" amnesty while satisfying management's demands for a steady flow of low-wage workers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president for labor issues, Randel Johnson, said that business wants "a broader temporary worker program that wouldn’t be limited to seasonal [agricultural] workers or just high-skilled" experts.

Service Employees International Union secretary treasurer Eliseo Medina said that unions want "a way for the immigrants of the future to come to the United States," but also want them to be covered by labor laws.

Roy Beck, founder of NumbersUSA, a non-partisan group which desires a return to pre-1965 immigration levels, says there is a "decent" chance that union leaders will ultimately be unable to support comprehensive immigration reform that requires a large-scale increase in the number of new workers.

“Even though [union leaders] they say they want this amnesty, I’m not sure they agree with [business-backed proposals] to greatly increase the number of legal worker and the numbers of guest workers,” Beck commented.

In a 2009 speech, Medina said that "if we reform immigration law, it will put 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voting."

“Can you imagine … if we have 8 million new voters that care about our issues and will be voting, we will create a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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