Progressives for Immigration Reform exists to protect low-skill, low wage American workers from unemployment and wage suppression caused by unfair labor and trade practices, including importation of large numbers of low wage foreign workers who are subject to exploitation by foreign and domestic corporations working in the United States. At the same time, it seeks to enhance the working conditions of working people worldwide through enhancing economic, health, social, and environmental conditions in the developing countries worldwide.
The principles and activities of Progressives for Immigration Reform are based in part on the work of the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. They fall into three major categories:
1. Protection of American Workers
The organization’s primary focus of concern is the condition of unskilled workers in U.S. society. In an age in which unskilled workers have far too few opportunities opened to them, and in which welfare reform will require thousands more to find jobs, we see no justification to the continued entry of unskilled foreign workers —unless the rationale for their admission otherwise serves a significant interest, as does the admission of nuclear family members and refugees. Reducing exploitation of foreign workers and suppression of the wages of unskilled American workers violates human rights in the name of profits by greedy, self-serving, private interests. Employer sanctions that were enacted in 1986 must be made to work. A requirement to verify social security numbers must be made mandatory immediately. Reliance on foreign workers in low-wage, low-skill occupations, such as hospitality, farm and factory work, provides disincentives for employers to improve pay and working conditions for American workers. This also harms companies that adhere to appropriate labor standards and that pay livable wages. The presence of large numbers of foreign workers in particular localities presents substantial costs for housing, health care, social services, schooling, and basic infrastructure that are borne by the public rather than the employers who benefit unfairly from the inexpensive labor. Enforcement must become a reality. Fines for violations of the employer sanctions system must be increased and used routinely. The same for criminal penalties for repeat offenders. By both deed and national publicity, the message must be made clear to the public that illegal migrants will not work in the United States. More worksite inspectors and border patrol personnel should be hired and deployed and greater enforcement facilities put in place.
There must be no amnesties given for those who have illegally entered the United States to work. There have been seven amnesties since 1986 when the first such amnesty was given. These served only to suppress the wages of working Americans and to cause unemployment of the most disadvantaged native-born population.
The admission of foreign workers for temporary work in skilled occupations (e.g., computer programming, technical, and research work) should remain capped at no more than 66,000 workers a year, but limited to no more than three years. No private or public institution should use temporary admissions as a long-term source of skilled labor. To the degree that such shortages exist, reliance on the expansion of educational and training programs should be the nation’s method of filling such needs.
2. Improving the Lives of Working People Worldwide
Working people in developing countries should be enabled to improve the economic, health, security, social, and environmental conditions within their countries. This will require the United States to greatly increase its humanitarian assistance to the poorest countries of the world. The focus of such assistance should be to build the capacity of those countries to live in harmony with the natural resources available to them. Such development is in the interest of the United States, both to enhance global economic welfare and to end the population pressures that lead to poverty, loss of forests, loss of biodiversity, poor health, civil conflict, and other conditions that ultimately cause massive numbers of refugees and economically deprived people to abandon their homelands and risk their lives to try to enter the United States and other developed countries both legally and illegally.
In order to effectively address the poverty of working people in developing countries and to enhance prospects for sustainable development, U.S. foreign aid should be focused on those investments known to lead most directly to population stabilization and economic welfare. The United States should raise the 0.1 percent of GDP currently contributed to foreign humanitarian assistance to a level above that of aid provided by European countries, and the United States should lead the developed world in bringing about rapid improvement of the human condition worldwide.
The first priority should be provision of comprehensive, voluntary family planning and reproductive information and services along with support for elevation of the status of women and girls, education of daughters, protection of children from exploitation, and related social and health goals. The accumulated evidence of the last half century is that delaying childbearing until adulthood and spacing of children is the single most effective step to improving maternal and child health that a poor country can take. Having every child wanted and loved is a requirement for healthy development of children. Families should always be created by choice and not coercion.
Bringing population size into balance with natural resources is critical to improved economic conditions and environmental and food security globally. This is a key element in preventing further damage to the planet’s ecosystem and the current threats to a stable climate conducive to all forms of life on earth. Taking such steps will reduce the potential for civil and international conflicts that can result when demand for resources outstrips supply.
A number of countries, especially in Asia, have demonstrated that the reduction of high fertility rates is a precursor to society-wide economic development. Such development narrows the gap between rich and poor, leading to egalitarian societies. Indeed, economic progress and economic welfare should always be measured not by such indicators as GDP, but rather GDP per capita. Economic policies of the United States should emphasize genuine well-being, not increasing consumption beyond the level needed for a decent and healthy life.
The United States must work to reduce both its population growth and excessive consumption of energy and resources in order to protect the most vulnerable in the global society from the potential effects of climate change and environmental destruction. The United States should take a lead role in demonstrating the positive benefits of sustainable population size and lifestyles.
3. Protection of the Environment
There is a critical need to stabilize the population of the United States in order to protect the country’s environment, as well as the global environment. Biodiversity, wilderness areas, wildlife, and other environmental values are threatened by expanding numbers of people in the United States. At the same time, the pollution of soils, water, and air affect the health of all Americans. Increasing population also makes the United States increasingly dependent on imported oil. As the price of petroleum products escalate, the United States is more likely to return to reliance on coal and other less environmentally friendly technologies for generating energy. Achieving environmental goals can only be accomplished if the population of the United States stops growing. That can only occur if immigration numbers come into balance with emigration.
It is the position of Progressives for Immigration Reform that U.S. immigration policy should be designed and enforced in order to reunite nuclear families rather than extended families, and should favor the immigration of skilled workers rather than unskilled workers.
Immigration policy should also consider and mitigate the effect of immigration on overall U.S. population and population growth, domestic water and energy supplies, open space and preservation of biodiversity, the emission of greenhouse gasses from the United States, and the working conditions and wages of both immigrants and native born workers. It should limit and mitigate the economic, social, and cultural impact of immigration.
Immigration policy should focus on improving border management, increase the enforcement of immigration laws, eliminate the “pull” of jobs, mitigate impact costs, simplify immigration categories, and provide consistency in addressing refugee and humanitarian considerations.
PFIR also favors policies of economic development assistance, including population assistance, to developing countries to lessen the “push” factors of poverty and unemployment that drive emigration from those countries.
PFIR opposes broad amnesties for undocumented aliens in the United States because of the impact such amnesties have had in the past on attitudes toward rule of law and the increases in illegal immigration that have followed previous amnesties, as foreign nationals attempt to arrive in time to be included in the next amnesty.
PFIR relies upon many of the principles and policy proposals prepared by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (commonly referred to as the Barbara Jordan Commission) formed by the United States Congress in 1990 to critically examine United States immigration policies and provide recommendations for reform, along with additional or specific policy positions adopted by the Board of Directors.