Immigration Reform Is a Civil Rights Issue

Latino and civil rights leaders will join together today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to call on our nation's lawmakers to reform our broken immigration system.

The message will be clear: immigration reform is not about race or ethnicity. It is about building national unity and economic strength, the spirit of hard work, and common-sense solutions that are equal and fair for everyone no matter where they come from.

President Obama during his inaugural address challenged us to seek common ground on the great issues facing our nation, including immigration reform. He said, "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity." His second-term address comes nearly 50 years after the March on Washington. We've come a long way, but our fight for social and economic justice is grounded in the belief that even better days are ahead.

Civil rights leaders see immigration reform as urgent because it is a civil rights issue. Immigrants should no more be relegated to second-class social standing because of their birthplace than should any native-born person because of the color of his or her skin.

Through immigration reform, we have an opportunity to confront shared struggles such as boosting working people's wages. Together we have the opportunity to lift up all communities and push policies that address the social and economic concerns that affect all working families.

With the election and inauguration now behind us, lawmakers must now get back to the people's business. They should focus on creating good jobs, getting our economy booming again, addressing income inequality, making sure everybody pays their fair share -- and ensuring hardworking immigrants have a path to citizenship. A road map to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants is imperative because it will strengthen our nation as a whole. It allows immigrants to continue contributing to our economy and, eventually, to fully participate in our democracy.

The nation as a whole wants our elected officials to address immigration reform sooner than later. In fact, U.S. voters, in a groundbreaking, bipartisan poll released last week, showed strong support for a long-term solution to our broken immigration system that includes a path to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Among African Americans, 84 percent agree, "We would be better off if people who are in the country illegally became taxpayers so they could pay their fair share and can work toward citizenship in the future." And 64 percent say it's an important goal to ensure immigrants who come to the United States illegally become legal and have the opportunity to work toward citizenship.

Today's broken system hasn't seen major reform since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) signed by President Ronald Reagan. It is out of line with today's social and economic realities.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's most diverse union, is ready to stand up for practical, commonsense immigration solutions that: fit with our national values; provide a clear road map to citizenship for hardworking, taxpaying immigrants; build the strength and unity of working people; keep families together; and guarantee the same rights, obligations and basic fairness for all workers, no matter where they come from.