Co-authored by Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ
On August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of thousands of activists, citizens, union members and leaders descended on Washington to reclaim the American Dream. What followed? The Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid and a long list of public initiatives that made America a better place for all. Today, despite the many accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. King's dream of ending poverty, eliminating racial and class inequality, ensuring voting rights, and providing fair and just opportunities for all has not yet been realized, but the March for Jobs and Freedom marked a turning point in our society and remains a shining example of what we can achieve when we unite together.
We know that today, working people are struggling to find good jobs. Voting rights are under relentless attack. The real value of today's minimum wage is $2.25 less than it was in 1963. Right-wing extremists continue to attack vital public services, such as education and health care. Our justice system is still rooted in stereotypes based on race, gender and class. And 11 million undocumented immigrants are forced to live in the shadows because our dysfunctional Congress cannot agree to fix our broken immigration system.
Then, a broad coalition banded together to ensure equal opportunity and equal protection under the law for those historically denied these rights due to the legacy of slavery. Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, aspiring Americans need our help to come out of the shadows and fully participate in our democracy.
We cannot afford to ignore the valuable contribution of immigrant workers, who not only have become part of the rich social and cultural fabric of our country, but are also adding $700 billion every year to our economy. Nationally, a recent Congressional Budget Office report outlined the potential positive economic impact of the reform bill passed in the Senate, showing a reduction in the federal deficit by $197 billion over the next 10 years. Today, addressing the economic crisis is inevitably linked to finding solutions to invigorate the middle class. Reforming the immigration system is a necessary step to ensure that immigrant workers can contribute up to their full potential, helping us to turn around the economy and expand opportunities for all.
The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that our values as a nation require Congress to create an immigration system that enhances our economy and that guarantees workers and immigrants their civil rights, human rights and civil liberties. Americans reject mass deportations and support a path to citizenship by a 2-1 margin. We have no more excuses.
That's why a broad array of labor, community, clergy, civil rights organizations and progressive elected officials are calling on Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform this year. Working families have suffered far too long at the hands of a broken immigration system that divides our strength, exploits workers, and fails to live up to our values as a nation of immigrants.
It's time to get rid of this unfair two-tier workforce. We need a commonsense immigration system that includes a realistic path to citizenship, keeps families together, raises standards for all working people and strengthens the economy.
Just as Rev. King and Rosa Parks understood that a society that is enslaved, disenfranchised and segregated by law can also begin to win equality by law, we can end this modern day two-tier society by fixing the broken immigration system by law. This is our time to make history. Join us on the streets of Harlem on August 28th to demand Immigration Reform for ALL.