Labor Leader: 'We Will Not Stop' Fighting For Immigration Reform

03/31/2015 02:35 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2015
Bill Clark via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Help from the government for undocumented immigrants isn't coming as quickly as they wanted, but union leaders and immigration activists are not giving up on President Barack Obama's currently stalled executive action programs.

The AFL-CIO labor federation gathered about 200 people, mostly union members, in Washington on Tuesday for a three-day training on immigration advocacy. Part of that training will be focused on teaching people how to apply for Obama's immigration executive action programs, which are currently on hold by a court order.

"If anyone asks you why we’re holding this training now, while we wait for a judge to either clear the way or put up another hurdle, tell them this progress can be stalled but it cannot be stopped," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. "We’ve come this far. We’re going forward. We will not stop."

The initial triumph over Obama's November announcement that he would grant reprieve to more undocumented immigrants has turned into disappointment and confusion over the past six weeks, after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the policies from moving forward. Now, the more than 4 million undocumented immigrants who might be eligible for Obama's reprieve programs are in a holding pattern, and advocates are doing their best to keep them from losing hope.

The Obama administration and its supporters say they are confident they will eventually win out in the courts and be able to start the programs. In November, Obama announced an expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay and work legally on a temporary basis. The executive actions would also create a similar policy for some parents called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA.

At the training led by the AFL-CIO, attendees will hear more details about DAPA and DACA and strategize about how to ensure the changes are successfully implemented if the court order is lifted.

They will also learn to encourage legal permanent residents who are eligible to apply for citizenship to do so, and how to advocate more generally for immigration reform.

Trumka encouraged the crowd to keep pushing, despite setbacks.

"Don't let anybody tell you that we can't do it," he said. "We can do it."

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