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Labor Unions Join Forces for Immigrant Workers

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Several labor unions recently announced that they are banding together to form a campaign that’s aiming to save workers of Temporary Protected Status from deportation.

The group, called Working Families United—made up of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), Unite Here, Bricklayers, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Iron Workers—launched the $1 million campaign earlier this month, in response to the termination of TPS designation for several countries.

What’s Going On?

TPS was created in 1990 to allow immigrants to remain in the United States longer if their home country experiences a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event while they’re here that would prevent their safe return home. While under TPS, immigrants can legally work in the United States, and many find work in the labor force, according to WFU.

The designation lasts between six and 18 months with the potential for renewals—which is the part that has come under scrutiny by the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, the Homeland Security Department announced that TPS for immigrants from Nicaragua and Haiti would be discontinued. Honduras TPS was also on the chopping block, but was given an extension to July 6, 2018, and in January, TPS is set to expire for El Salvador.

According to NBC’s Philadelphia affiliate, the program currently allows 435,000 people from nine countries to live and work in the U.S.


The administration is highlighting the term “temporary” in the TPS system and says that places such as Nicaragua are safer than they were when they were given TPS designation, and therefore, those immigrants should go back to their respective countries.

Another point of contention lies in the TPS blanketing an entire country of origin, not taking into account how the immigrants actually arrived in the U.S.

However, some members of Congress say just because those areas are deemed “safer” doesn’t mean the decision to end the TPS is the correct one.

"These men and women have lived here legally for years,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland in a statement. "They have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world."

On Nov. 13, Van Hollen introduced a bill that would allow certain immigrants with TPS to apply for residency. That bill is where the majority of support from WFU is going.

“The TPS campaign budget will include a variety of ad buys and will center around key congressional targets crucial in bipartisan passage of HR 4253 and the Van Hollen bill,” according to Unite Here.

In addition to the moral debate, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center says that the deportation of immigrants from just three of the nine countries could cost taxpayers $3.1 billion, reduce GDP by $45.2 billion over a decade, decrease Social Security and Medicare contributions by $6.9 billion and increase employer expenses by $967 million.

Further arguments from the industry point to census numbers that show nearly 30 percent of the already short-handed U.S. construction labor force is Hispanic, meaning that a continued end to the TPS designations would have a significant impact on the construction industry.

The WFU announced concludes: “Labor unions are making a strong statement that people who have lived here for decades and played by the rules should be offered a path to legalization and citizenship.”


Tagged categories: Good Technical Practice; Government; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Labor; Latin America; North America; President Trump; Unions

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