Immigration Reform Would Help Economy, Says Labor Secretary

Hilda Solis joins town hall discussion at ELAC.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Undocumented immigrants are often painted as incompetent, criminals and thugs, but the demonizing of immigrants has a devastating effect on all Americans and needs to stop, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told a crowd at East Los Angles College on May 27.

“We are living in a time of economic uncertainty. Too many Americans are out of work and that’s especially true for our community. Yet some Americans who once supported reform have changed their position because they think bringing immigrants out of the shadows will make it harder for them to find work,” said Solis, who previously represented the East Los Angeles area as a U.S. Representative.

Solis said getting people to understand that the country benefits economically from immigration and that comprehensive immigration reform is in the country’s best interest, is “challenging.”

Read this story IN SPANISH: Reforma Migratoria Ayudaría la Economía, Dice la Secretaria de Trabajo

Solis was one of the speakers taking part in “Conversation on Immigration Reform for the 21st Century,” a town hall style discussion held at ELAC. Her remarks come on the heels of the president’s speech in El Paso, Texas last month, where he said immigration reform is important to the U.S. economy.

The labor secretary was one of several elected officials in the Southland last week hitting key points of the president’s immigration message in hopes of quelling the perception among Hispanics, before the 2012 elections, that Obama has not lived up to his commitment to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

Solis said it’s time for voters across the country to engage in a civil dialogue about the country’s inadequate immigration laws. The daughter of immigrants herself, Solis said the U.S. needs a federal immigration policy that applies to all 50 states.
She also reminded the audience that President Obama’s father was an immigrant.

Solis described the positive economic impact she says immigrants have had, and continue to have on the U.S., not only as laborers, but also as creators of wealth and technology and other innovations.

“For generations, immigrants have contributed vastly to the wealth and opportunity of this country. Today our immigrants are scientist and engineers. They create jobs as small business owners and entrepreneurs. They file three times as many patents—which are the foundation for 21st century innovation.

“Immigrants build roads, harvest crops and do work that is vital for our economic prosperity,” Solis said.

“Immigrant families boost local economies, they increase tax revenue and they pay into our social security system. And yes, immigrants are driven, they are smart and some of the best students we have to offer in this country, so we have to tell their stories,” Solis told the audience, made up mostly of college students, activists and members of the media.

Solis said support, or lack thereof, for an overhaul of our immigration laws in Washington D.C., is divided along party lines, with Republicans being particularly reluctant to address immigration reform.

“The president believes that we can fix this system and change hearts and minds, and hopefully lower the temperature so we stop the bad rhetoric…our talk today is about restoring dignity and respect to people who are working hard and playing by the rules…” she said, before going on to ask her fellow panelists their perspective on bring about immigration reform.

Rev. Fr. Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angeles Church, a self-described “advocate priest,” said everyday he hears first hand the struggles immigrants face.
“The immigration laws are doing nothing but making people suffer,” he said.

Estrada said religious leaders want to see compassionate immigration reforms because they believe all people are created in the likeness of god, and highly value dignity and respect.

Panelist Laphonza Butler is with the SEIU, a union that represents service industry employees. She said workers in America are under attack and passage of comprehensive immigration reform is really about defining the “soul” of the country.

Kent Wong (left) listens intently as Dolores Huerta talks about past immigration reform efforts. Also pictured, Michael Czarcinski. (EGP photo by Mario Villegas)

Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070; Wisconsin’s ban on collective bargaining for public workers; and the on-the-spot firings of Chipotle workers in Minnesota are all examples of how workers in this U.S. are being attacked, she said.

“The passage of immigration reform is really about defining the soul of our country because keeping families together, educating our next generation, being able to have a quality job, having the ability to go to a doctor…earning a living wage—those aren’t republican or democrat issues—those are issues of human dignity,” Butler said.

“If we are not talking about the basic way that people should be treated in the United States of America, then we are not having the right conversation.”

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, said there is no greater threat to the civil rights of Latinos today than the violent and shrill rhetoric that demonizes Latino immigrants and undocumented immigrants as a whole.

“When that dangerous rhetoric is enacted into law in the form of Arizona’s SB 1070, or local cities’ restrictions on immigrant day laborers, or local officials implementing without any sanctions whatsoever their own approaches to immigration regulation…there is no greater threat to the civil rights of all of us,” Saenz said.

Saenz said adoption of state and local immigration laws are an assault on the American constitution. He pointed to programs like Secure Communities as an attack on communities and the nation as a whole.

“There is no greater guarantor of our continued thriving as a nation under constitutional values that we believe in, than to ensure that this nation follows more progressive immigration reform,” he said.

Kent Wang, of the UCLA Labor Center, talked about the center’s work to support immigrant workers and Dream Act students. He said Dream Act students are carrying on the social justice work of Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez and Dr Martin Luther King.

“It is shameful that we are not allowing them to fully participate, to use their gifts, their skills, their knowledge and allowing them to legally work in our society. These are the young people who can help us with our economic recovery… that is why we are calling on president Obama today to stop the deportation of Dream Act students,” Wong said, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

Wong said incarcerating and deporting Dream Act students—brought to the U.S. illegally as children which makes them ineligible for college financial aid—is a “horrendous waste of federal resources.”

Saenz said we are wasting our investment in public education by denying high-achieving immigrants the right to work and contribute to the US economy.

Michael Czarcinki, general manager of Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, said immigration laws are confusing to businesses and individuals. He said the citizenship process should be simplified.

“My grandfather was an immigrant, I think the welcome mat said ‘willkommen.’ Today there’s no ‘welcome’ on the welcome mat, there’s ‘maybe welcome’ or ‘I’m not too sure’—we need to get rid of the ‘maybe’ and ‘I’m not too sure’ and have comprehensive immigration reform now,” Czarcinski said.

As the son of teamster who was illiterate, Czarcinski said he is glad to be part of the immigration debate and support immigration reform.

Some people have forgotten that their grandparents were once immigrants, UFW Co-founder Dolores Huerta said. “We need to remind them, unless you’re Native American, you probably came from somewhere else and at some point your family was legalized.”

She noted that during the 1920’s there were more foreign born than native born people in the country.

Huerta said the US has taken on immigration and legalization many times in its history. She said bans on ethnic studies in places like Arizona, is keeping young immigrants and future generations from learning about their history and contributions.

The way to get the immigration reform conversation going again is to reach out to other communities, said Huerta.

She said we have to reach out to people in other states, where Latinos, despite their large numbers, are failing to vote, and get them involved in the push to change the immigration laws. “…Texas is 50 percent Latino and yet in the legislature they’re two-thirds republican and they’ve introduced 100 pieces of legislation against immigrants,” Huerta said.

People who don’t support Affirmative Action and say America should be a color blind society, without giving preferential treatment to one race or another, should know the current immigration system is blatantly racially discriminatory, Saenz said.

“Today, in 2011, we can have two potential immigrants, one from Europe, one from Mexico. The potential immigrant from Europe waits 4 years…the one from Mexico waits 18 years or longer to reunite with their family,” he said.

Speaking from the audience. Victor Fernandez questioned Solis about Obama’s deportation record.

“Why has Obama deported more people per year than Bush?” he asked.

Solis responded that immigration reform critics use the border-security as a driving force for their opposition, so Obama has had to increase security and enforcement measures.

“It hits both ways, but that argument is valid for those people who are not even where we are [on supporting immigration reform]. Secure the borders, do everything you can, you might think that is not relevant but it is… now we can move past that,” she said.

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June 2, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


17 Responses to “Immigration Reform Would Help Economy, Says Labor Secretary”

  1. taxpayer200 on June 2nd, 2011 12:52 pm

    When e-verify, Secure Communities and a Visa tracking system are fully implemented we can discuss the future of the brightest students.

    Until we have those three items and a border which GAO says is 100% operationally secure there will be no legalization of those who entered illegally – either across our borders or by overstaying a visa.

  2. Christian in Austin on June 2nd, 2011 2:03 pm


  3. A Legal American on June 2nd, 2011 2:51 pm

    Sad this article never mentioned “illegal” when speaking of immigrants. Typical Lib blather. Solis is just another illegal loving, Obama clone. No one except illegals and their racist advocates can take Solis serious when she aligns herself with MALDEF and SEIIU (the biggest racists of them all). Illegals cost this country way more in benefits for anchor babies, education, healthcare, incarceration, etc, than they will ever put back into system. Americans will never allow another amnesty or legalizing millions of criminals. We realize that Oshama and his clowns like Solis are just pandering to the Mexicans for votes. Where were they went they had control of Congress to pass CIR? Oh yeah, that wasn’t election time, so that issue didn’t matter. Americans are not fooled by the amnesty crowd.

  4. kolos100 on June 2nd, 2011 3:31 pm

    Why all country should be engaged in immigration dialogue? Immigration is a very narrow issue that affect 10% of population. Why this issue was blown up to the national proportions. Everybody knew that people illegally crossing the border, bringing families, having children. It was known in 1990, 1991, …..2000. Nobody cared about that back then. It was going for too long. Now there is no other way as to legalize all those people. Obama, get a pen and sign an executive order, be a man of your word. We talked about the need for Immigration Reform for 3 years. No more talking.

  5. Disagree on June 2nd, 2011 4:06 pm

    Respect the laws of the United States of America and we generally welcome you. Spit on us, our flag and our freedoms – and you are not welcome here. Those businesses who hire illegals should be prosecuted and forfeit their property for aiding and abetting the breaking of federal immigration laws. Those business owners are no better than drug dealers. American individuals who hire them should suffer the same fate.

  6. Jim B on June 2nd, 2011 4:51 pm

    And she is full of s71#r right up to her big brown hispanic eyes. What would you expect her to say???

  7. Pedro on June 3rd, 2011 7:13 am
  8. TTTT on June 3rd, 2011 1:38 pm

    Funny how your rhetoric never once included that the Europeans came as a calling and paid their own way, learned English, respected an opportunity and assimilated into the mainstream society. Do you know why the illegals hide? The same reason a thief hides after robbing a store-because what that person did was against the law. These vermin literally save up money-save up money, knowing full well they will utilize that money to do something illegal. They are more concerned about doing something illegal than feeding their own family. Wow, what great people to defend. Why are you not defending our local drug dealers? They too, are committing illegal acts to do what they want, but yet you haven’t raised a cent to protect them? Are they not brown enough? Are they not criminal enough? Maybe you’d help them if they start stealing people’s identities?

  9. Bev on June 3rd, 2011 2:02 pm

    “Estrada said religious leaders want to see compassionate immigration reforms because they believe all people are created in the likeness of god, and highly value dignity and respect. ”

    Separation of church & state.

    Come here legally or don’t come here. Last year in California, illegals cost the state over $1 BILLION in incarceration. Criminals.

  10. Jeff kenner on June 3rd, 2011 5:17 pm

    Our talk today is about restoring dignity and respect to people who are working hard and playing by the rules…” Secretary Solis said

    If illegal immigrants were playing by the rules we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    You crossed the border illegally, period.
    Now you want a free pass for it because you worked hard after you broke the law?

    If I rob a bank and play nice for a certain number of years after, I should get off the hook for my crime too? A crime is a crime is a crime.

  11. James on June 3rd, 2011 5:35 pm

    It’s been said in this article that our immigration system is broken and needs fixing.

    Our enforcement system of immigration is what’s broken and has been exploited by a population of 11 million people that aren’t supposed to be here in the first place.

    1) Clarify the 14th amendment regarding children born in this country to illegal parents,

    2) Enact E Verify at the employment level nationally.

    3) Verify citizenship and legality for welfare and food stamp programs.

    Get rid of the reasons they come here illegally and they will self deport.

  12. barb3000 on June 3rd, 2011 8:50 pm

    There is nothing wrong with our immigration system. It’s not broken and never has been. Enforce the laws on the books. What is needed is mandatory E-Verify in every state. If the illegal’s can’t get a job they will deport themselves. The reason there is so much fighting over E-Verify is because it works, a little too well for the open border wackos. As far as what Solis thinks or does, I could care less. Her job was a political appointment given to her by Obama.

  13. ketrout on June 4th, 2011 9:02 am

    The facts:
    If you cross the North Korean border illegally you get 12 years hard labor.
    If you cross the Iranian border illegally you are detained indefinitely.
    If you cross the Afghan border illegally, you get shot.
    If you cross the Saudi Arabian border illegally you will be jailed.
    If you cross the Chinese border illegally you may never be heard from again.
    If you cross the Venezuelan border illegally you will be branded a spy and your fate will be sealed.
    If you cross the Mexican borders illegally you will jailed for two years.
    If you cross the Cuban border illegally you will be thrown into political prison to rot.

    These are laws are current immigration laws of MEXICO!!!
    1.There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
    2. All ballots will be in this nation’s language.
    3. All government business will be conducted in our language.
    4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are here.
    5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office.
    6 Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care,
    or other government assistance programs. Any burden will be deported.
    7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least equal to 40,000 times
    the daily minimum wage.
    8. If foreigners come here and buy land, options will be restricted.
    Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens naturally born into this country.
    9. Foreigners may have no protests; no demonstrations, no waving of a foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. These will lead to deportation.
    10. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted &, when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All assets will be taken from you.

    These rules sound fine to me.
    NOW, how can we get these laws to be America’s immigration laws

    If you cross the United States border illegally you get:
    1 – A job
    2 – A driver’s license
    3 – A Social Security card
    4 – Welfare
    5 – Food stamps
    6 – Credit cards
    7 – Subsidized rent or a loan to buy a house
    8 – Free education
    9 – Free health care
    10 – A lobbyist in Washington
    11 – Billions of dollars in public documents printed in your language
    12 – Millions of servicemen and women who are willing to – and do – die
    for your right to the ways and means of our Constitution
    13 – And the right to carry the flag of your country – the one you walked
    out on – while you call America racist and protest that you don’t get
    enough respect.
    How about making Mexico’s immigration laws OURS.
    They work down there so they should work here.
    AH, Wait if I we do that the Dem’s have just run out of some important votes for re-election.

  14. ketrout on June 4th, 2011 9:03 am

    Immigration Enforcement Responsible for Large Drop in Crime

    Gwinnett County, GA, is roughly 1600 miles from the Mexican border, but serious crime in 2010 has dropped significantly with murders down 43%, robberies down 30% and stolen vehicle reports falling 18 percent. Authorities give credit to enforcing illegal immigration law.

    There are 5,000 fewer illegal immigrants in the county jail than there were in late 2009 when the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) began participating in the 287(g) program which allows local law enforcement to identify and report illegal aliens in their custody.

    The Sheriff’s spokeswoman, Stacey Bourbonnais, credits immigration enforcement for the large drop saying, “In the last 10 years, we have never seen a decrease in foreign-born bookings. In fact, we’ve been seeing significant increases every single year for the last 10 years until the 287(g) program started.” Since November 2009, when the GCSO began participating in 287(g), 4,153 illegal immigrants (responsible for a total of 9,177 various charges) have been identified.

    The most serious crimes which those illegal immigrants were charged: felony drug charges (330), rape (32), child molestation (65), other sex crimes (40), DUI (658), aggravated assault (103), robbery (54), battery (228), and murder (4).

    Mexico represents the country of origin of the most illegal immigrants arrested in Gwinnett County with over half of those arrested from Mexico. Nearly one-fourth of those arrested were from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador.

  15. Kathleen on June 4th, 2011 7:17 pm

    Hilda Solis, Luis Gutierrez, Robert Menendez. and the entire Hispanic Caucus are both thieves and traitors. They take our tax dollars in salary while working full time advocating on behalf of illegal aliens. All are a disgrace to their office and our country and all are guilty of dereliction of duty at best and treason at worst and every one should be removed from office.

  16. Carol O on June 7th, 2011 9:09 am

    My parents immigrated to the US legally in 1925. I am one half Spanish origin, one fourth Apache Indian, and one fourth Mexican cave Indian. I sympathize for poor Hispanics crossing the border illegally because they are so poor that they leave their own country knowing that they will be despised in the US. However, I am a US citizen first and as such feel that the rights of my fellow US citizens should not be undermined for the sake of people that illegally enter the US. Politicians claim illegals are living in the shadows and that they do not take jobs that US citizens want. The author of this article clearly states that the contributions of these people extend far beyond agriculture and low paying jobs, and I agree with her. However, how many Americans that could have made these same contributions were thrown out of work? For years the argument was made that illegals take only the jobs that Americans don’t want, but now we are supposed to be overjoyed that they are clearly taking the jobs we do want. You can’t have it both ways! Illegals do throw US citizens out of work, whether they are from Hispanic countries of origin or from some other place on the planet. The US needs to enforce it’s own immigration laws and protect the rights of US citizens. Our country is suffering from high unemployment. Let’s put our own US citizens to work first.

  17. Brittanicus on June 12th, 2011 7:51 pm

    AMNESTY or as the Pro-illegal immigration groups prefer to label it–Immigration Reform. The truth is not ever going to happen? The 1986 IRCA was a utter calamity and costly for taxpayers. The 1986 (IRCA) Immigration Control and Reform Act that was a mass amnesty, which became the prime deception, played on the American taxpayer of all time. Because of despicably fraud and supreme neglect, the 2 million farmer’s laborers and other illegal workers who were provided a legal course to citizenship, that ultimately turned into 6 million. Even inexplicable those people, who received this pardon, vanished from their usual places of employment and turned up in the job force around the country that Americans citizens had to compete with. Future wise, Congress proposed the I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification Form.) to ensure that all employees presented documentary proof of their legal eligibility, to accept employment in the United States. If the employee has a hiring issue, and chooses to contest an irregularity notice, the employer prints out the “Referral Letter” from the E-Verify program.

    The letter contains information about resolving the problem, as well as the contact information for the (SSA) Social security Administration) or (USCIS) US Citizenship and Immigration Service, depending on which bureau was the source of the non-authorization to resolve the problem? As constantly the open border zealots, US Chamber of Commerce, ACLU and a radical mix of anti American organizations, have used the Liberal Press as a fulcrum to regrettably try to suppress the implementation of E-Verify. Are we not in the poorhouse with China, as it is? But this is no firm binder, because millions more people will strive to reach here, before that ominous Using the media these groups have also brought pressure on the administration not to espouse the Secure Communities law, which identifies criminal aliens through fingerprints by informing ICE. Then Subsequently E-Verify that is increasingly more popular each day by business owners. They are now cautiously aware that an I-9 audit puts their business license in jeopardy, as upheld by the Supreme Court.

    As with the 1986 (IRCA) bill those who advocate against the laws are profiteers for more wealth, or to accumulate more votes or just to prepare America (according to the WikiLeaks group founder Julian Assange in secret documents) for merging with some kind of traitorous program, with Canada and Mexico with one currency. This stealth agenda was collusion between the Canadian and American Ambassadors.

    The other side of the aisle on the corrupt Washington beltway, says we cannot afford to enforce immigration laws? Then my question we had better figure someway, for as the law stands we are just encouraging more illegal newcomers? So the second question, when does this invasion end, when does the lawmakers install laws, that make it impossible to stop this travesty? Are we just going to leave the doors open and hope for the best? All we are encouraging is even more poverty and distressed people, that taxpayers have to bear the full fiscal impact? Ten years from now, population numbers will be skyrocketing and the only winners are the profit-takers.

    Whether we are coming out this miserable recession or not, we cannot afford any immigration amnesty. The first Amnesty in 1986 Ronald Reagan’s term of office, cost–$76 BILLION DOLLARS–by the time it was fulfilled. In today money it’s expected to cost $2.6 TRILLION DOLLARS as stated the Heritage Foundation. So taxpayers would be expected to cover that bill, lending most of it from China again? Are we not in the poorhouse with China, as it is? But this is no firm binder, because millions more people will strive to reach here, before that ominous inauguration day of a new Immigration Reform bill. If Congress is unable to cut spending in this recent of 14 .5 Trillion dollars US Treasury deficit, can anybody in the right frame of mind, tell us where we intend to get another $2.5 trillion dollars, to subsidize those illegal immigrants already living here? These dollars are inconceivable and even if there was another. It’s outrageous that Washington politicians would expect to bleed even more money from traumatic Taxpayers, when we are confronted by rejuvenating two nations abroad, in millions of dollars a day.

    Using the media these groups have also brought pressure on the administration not to espouse the Secure Communities law, which identifies criminal aliens through fingerprints by informing ICE. Then Subsequently E-Verify that is increasingly more popular each day by business owners. They are now cautiously aware that an I-9 audit puts their business license in jeopardy, as upheld by the Supreme Court.

    As with the 1986 (IRCA) bill those who advocate against the laws are profiteers for more wealth, or to accumulate more votes or just to prepare America (according to the WikiLeaks group founder Julian Assange in secret documents) for merging with some kind of traitorous program, with Canada and Mexico with one currency. This stealth agenda was collusion between the Canadian and American Ambassadors.

    Amnesty, it will only further multitudes of people to come here? Washington legislators come and go, author bills, but are never held accountable for the financial wrecks they leave behind? Only Secure Communities, E-Verify can mitigate some of the pressure that will make foreign nationals think twice before crossing the border, or entering America by other means. This isn’t about any particular race, a person’s politics, religion as we are all suffering. It’s not even about the legal Hispanic population, as they are under the same pain of finding a job, stagnant wages and some type of exploitation. We are all the same boat and without stringent restrictions on immigration and its costs, that boat is heading towards rough waters and could easily sink. The TEA PARTY will slow down this process by confronting Washington aggressively on birthright citizenship to rescind it, which will sever the bond of 300.000 babies from foreign nation getting instant citizenship; cutting down on the annual monolithic cost to subsidize these offspring and families.

    It will also bring to a halt, which it attributed to this wrongly conferred law, saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year? The TEA PARTY will examine these unfair taxes placed on Americans, by Liberal oriented courts, to appoint obligations to educate, provide health care that comes with the never ending tide of illegal aliens skirting our laws. The TEA PARTY will created bills to up the penalty, for entering America as a felony. This should have been the law of the land, decades ago? Personally, it has always translated to prove there was no serious intention to enforce these laws. It’s in the vein of a conspirator’s reason, why the Southern border fences completion remains a fiasco. The Tea Party will enforce the 1986 (IRCA) law as was planned, with no complicity of government agencies to stifle those laws, such as the business influence.

    The TEA PARTY in 2012 will remove the Liberal influence and even have the empowerment to construct the real border fence, and mandating with no exemptions E-Verify and Secure Communities and indefinitely remove Sanctuary Cities nationwide. As the Tea Party grows against the powerful influences in Washington, these Representatives like TEA PARTY Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota will retire those pro-illegal immigrant politicians, Governors, mayors and all those who have adversely affected strong laws that have been introduced. The American People should not be forced by law, to pay for the impoverished people that trespass into America from other countries.

    We can aid our fellow legal workers out, by taking immigration one step towards generic “Citizens Arrest. We cannot apprehend a suspicious individual, as it could lead to legal action. But we have the opportunity to join other “Whistle blowers” to inform ICE or local police as irregularities stand out. Not speaking reasonable English is a dead give-away, specifically in factory environment and if somebody has an accident through not comprehending a warning notice.

    The time is ripe to contact their federal and State Representatives to insist they enact mandatory E-Verify, Secure Communities for every State, at the Senate—202-224–3121/ House—202-225–3121.

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