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Lecture connects immigration, labor reform

| Monday, September 11, 2017

As part of the Higgins Labor Program’s Research and Policy Series (RAPS), president of the North Central Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Tony Flora and executive director of La Casa de Amistad, Sam Centellas, delivered a lecture about immigration and labor reform at Geddes Hall on Friday.

President of the North Central Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Tony Flora delivers a lecture about immigration in Geddes Hall on Friday.Mariah Rush

Executive director of La Casa de Amistad, Sam Centellas, delivers a lecture about the intersection between immigration policy and mistreatment of immigrant workers in Geddes Hall on Friday.

Flora said the importance of community efforts cannot be underestimated.

“Most of [our] work is around effecting law and regulation and that realm of politics,” Flora said. “The AFL-CIO has been very vigorous about developing community relationships and coalitions.”

Many companies, Flora said, hire undocumented workers because they are aware of their undocumented status and therefore do not have to treat them according to labor laws and standards.

Centellas said bankrupt companies often involve CEOs who still make millions of dollars, and unemployment has nothing to do with undocumented workers taking jobs.

“If you’re unemployed, an undocumented Mexican worker is not oppressing you, the CEO’s of companies are the ones oppressing you, but they have convinced you that you’re being oppressed because of these Mexican immigrants coming to your town,” Centellas said. 

“Our goal is to achieve a society through shared prosperity, and we cannot have that shared prosperity when 11 million people in our country are in a below ground economy,” he said. “If you’re undocumented, you can’t go to your boss and say, “You didn’t pay me the overtime,” and the boss can say, “What are you going to do about it?” if they know you are undocumented. They can claim that they are being very generous, but the truth is, the undocumented workforce represents a drag on the economy — not because they are here being employed, but because they do not have full civil and labor rights.”

Flora said undocumented workers often receive no attention or remedy if they raise awareness about their unfair treatment.

“It seems like the ability to reform immigration law in America has hit a brick wall,” Flora said. “On the other hand, I’m going to be a little optimistic. I think we have a wonderful opportunity right now. Sometimes when a bad thing happens, it opens up an awful lot of doors, but there is going to be an ensuing crisis created by what the Trump administration has just done.”

Although Flora describes the current immigration climate as a “climate of terror,” he said coalitions serve as major proponents for immigration reform.

As executive director of La Casa de Amistad, Centellas helps many families with undocumented immigrants. Centellas said the Latino population is often misrepresented.

“They don’t want free,” Centellas said. “They want to pay for a service. They want to contribute.”

Centellas said controversy surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program affects his clients.

“You see it where a lot of people have read the stuff about DACA, and say ‘They are giving them six months, or they are rolling it out,” but no,” he said. “It’s garbage. It’s something they didn’t have to do. They could have put pressure on Congress to get this done without that happening.”

Centellas said many undocumented immigrants’ best chance at earning documentation may be to go back to Mexico and wait there for around 20 years before coming into the country legally. Undocumented labor and the associated abuse and low wages adversely affect the economy.

“A lot of times people think about immigration or immigration reform, and they forget that all of those problems impact everything,” Centellas said. “They say, ‘Oh, I hope those immigrants figure it out,’ but undocumented labor impacts everything. It impacts your family, your uncle’s company.” 

“That’s why we all have to care, not just because helping other people is fantastic and it’s what we should do,” he said. “But we also need to get people to understand that they are impacted by this, and so that’s why it’s important for people to get involved and to understand what is happening. That’s what is killing our labor market right now: this black market of labor with people who cannot advocate for themselves and move out of that position because of their documentation status.”


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  • DonHonda


    Is this what to expect from DREAMers?:


    Ruben Navarrette: One Dreamer’s missed lesson in good character

  • DonHonda

    An Atlantic Monthly article that shows that most economists’ thinking that an increased influx of immigrants provides more jobs for Americans is FALSE and does harm jobs for US workers and the economy:



    The Conscience Of A Liberal–Paul Krugman

    “First, the benefits of immigration to the population already here are small.”
    ” But as Mr. Hanson explains in his paper, reasonable calculations suggest that we’re talking about very small numbers, perhaps as little as 0.1 percent of GDP.

    “My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand…

    “Finally, the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear. ”

    Also, it is patently untrue that “immigrants” are the solution to low rate of start-ups:


  • DonHonda


    “Civil Rights Commissioner Warns Obama Executive Amnesty Will Hurt Black, STEM Workers”

    “I write to express my concern regarding reports that you plan on issuing an executive order that purports to grant legal status and work authorization to millions of illegal immigrants after the November elections. My concerns center around the effect such grant of legal status will have on two subsets of American workers: low-skilled workers: particularly low-skilled black workers, and high-skilled STEM workers.”

    Here’s the US Commission on Civil Rights’ (USCCR) case against illegal immigration:


    The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers (all quoted directly)

    Illegal immigration to the United States in recent decades has tended to depress both wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men (p3).

    Dr. Hanson‘s coauthored research suggested that a 10 percent immigrant-induced increase in the labor supply is associated with a 4 percent decrease in black wages, a 3.5 percent decrease in the black employment rate, and a 0.8 percent increase in the black incarceration rate (p5).

    These adjustments account for about 40 percent of the overall 18 percent decline in black employment rates and 10 of the 20 percentage point increase in the incarceration rate of black high school dropouts over the same period. Dr. Hanson noted that this influx reduced the employment rate of low- skill black men by eight percentage points (p6).

    In both his written and oral testimony, Professor Briggs stated that no issue has negatively ―affected the economic well-being of African Americans more than immigration. … Dr. Briggs viewed such losses as a denial of basic civil rights and economic opportunity (p7).

    Dr. Briggs stated that about 12 million illegal immigrants are currently in the U.S. labor market, … and that in his view, further legalization of such immigrants with family reunification would be economically devastating to low-wage workers of all races and black workers in particular(p8).

    Dr. Briggs also stated that the inflow of immigrants has resulted in low-skilled wages not rising over time. He viewed the reduction of both wages and jobs as a massive violation of the civil rights of all low-skilled workers, and of black workers in particular. He recommended, therefore, that the federal government
    should adhere to the findings of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX): ―People who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in, are kept out; and people who are judged deportable, are required to leave (p9).

    Dr. Briggs objected strongly to what he viewed as the use of public policy to drive down wages artificially. Dr. Jaynes agreed on that point, noting that this is indeed a civil rights issue, since such policy was being used to trample on the rights of all workers by driving down wages and avoiding employment rights. Vice Chair Thernstrom asked whether “artificial” was the correct word. Dr. Briggs responded that it was, since deliberate failure to enforce the law was responsible for the wage suppression, and such action was indefensible (p13).

  • DonHonda


    “The former ambassador stated,” If you were to deport the 30 million undocumented immigrants in the United States that’s going to cost you about 130 billion dollars.”

    Here’s the problem with the Dream Act, there is no quid pro quo for American dreamers, not to mention legal immigrant dreamers, patiently waiting for their green card applications to be accepted. Americans know if you break the law, you have to pay a price. The quid pro quo for DREAMER amnesty should be Birthright Reform — that would prohibit the offspring born here of illegal aliens from acquiring U.S. citizenship at birth.
    Moreover, former Senate Leader Harry Reid first proposed this same birthright reform in his Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993 (TITLE X–CITIZENSHIP § 1001). By using Harry Reid’s proposed immigration solution, DREAMER amnesty can be a win/win for both the DREAMERS and the American people.