Calling them "aspiring American workers," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka launched a petition Wednesday calling on President Obama to bypass Congress on the current immigration surge and to instead use his executive authority to aid the people flooding the southwestern U.S. border.
"Families are being separated because Congress has failed to act on a commonsense immigration process. The crisis on our worksites and in our communities can't wait. That's why I'm calling on President Obama to extend administrative relief to Americans in waiting," Trumka said.
Obama has said in the past that he is obliged to follow the law and order the deportation of illegal immigrants, even if he isn't personally fond of the law. The AFL-CIO's petition makes a point of noting that Obama has used often executive power to circumvent congressional rulemaking in the past, most recently to prevent the deportation of immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16.
"Immigrant families cannot wait, the American people cannot wait, basic justice cannot wait. Please take executive action to extend administrative relief to Americans in waiting," the petition states.
The president has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the various problems caused by the flood of migrants. Like Trumka, the president has blamed Congress for the problem by failing to pass a comprehensive reform bill. Republicans counter that Obama's policies sparked the current surge.
The AFL-CIO's announcement is the latest sign of of the extent to the organized labor movement in America has embraced a pro-immigration stance. Historically, the movement viewed immigrants with suspicion, seeing them as unfair low-wage competition to American workers. Even the late Latino labor leader Cesar Chavez, president of the United Farm Workers, urged his members to report illegal immigrants to law enforcement.
The composition of the labor movement has shifted in recent decades though, with some unions having significant success in organizing industries heavily represented by immigrant workers, particularly the service and hospitality ones. Hence Trumka's eagerness to allow the immigrants to stay:
With unionization shrinking to just 11.3 percent of the workforce, Big Labor really wants more newly legalized workers to help the movement grow again.