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Union Think Tank Wants More States To Become ‘Sanctuary States’

The Economic Policy Institute (a union-advocacy think tank) says that, in the absence of nationwide amnesty, more states should follow California’s lead and become ‘sanctuary states.’


U.S. labor unions, that were once against mass immigration and those who immigrants who did not wish to assimilate with the American culture, have now become one of the biggest driving forces behind the push toward legalizing the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Now, with ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ still being in limbo at the federal level, the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank largely funded and controlled by labor unions that publishes studies and proposals that bolster union messaging, is proposing that states to follow California’s lead to become so-called ‘sanctuary states.’

The ideal solution to this problem would be federal immigration reform that provides legalization and a path to citizenship for the 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. This would level the playing field in terms of labor standards for all workers. However, in the absence of such nationwide reform, the government of the state of California has taken measures to improve labor standards for vulnerable immigrant workers present in the state.


After much details on the various California statutes enacted, the EPI proposal concludes:

California’s laws intended to protect unauthorized workers from retaliation and other abuses based on immigration status are relatively new innovations; together, they constitute a groundbreaking experiment that has the capability to reduce some of the inherent vulnerabilities workers face when they are employed without work authorization. California’s efforts in this area are especially valuable in an era of increased immigration enforcement at the federal level.

While it is too early to judge the success of California’s laws that protect immigrant workers—or to guess how the DOJ’s lawsuit against California will be resolved—these laws are a promising beginning for addressing immigration-related labor standards issues and reveal a willingness on the part of the California legislature and the Brown administration to think outside the box in order to grapple with a new, ramped-up version of immigration enforcement during the Trump era. Other states should follow California’s lead and innovate with new laws that protect workers from retaliation, wage theft, and other workplace abuses that are facilitated by virtue of their immigration status—and then enforce those laws vigorously. [Emphasis added.]


There was a time when labor union leaders knew that, with more workers entering the labor force–especially illegally–American workers would suffer due to the increase in supply, thus causing wages and other labor standards to be lowered.

However, following the ascension of Richard Trumka and his predecessor John Sweeney to lead the AFL-CIO, the union movement drastically changed its position nearly two decades ago.

As the Communist Workers’ World noted in 2000:

In a landmark policy change hailed in immigrant communities from coast to coast, on Feb. 16 the AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously called for amnesty for some 6 million undocumented workers and their families in the United States–and called on Congress to repeal a 1986 law that has victimized these immigrants.

[snip]
“With this resolution, the AFL-CIO proudly stands on the side of immigrant workers,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the 13-million-member AFL-CIO.

“This AFL-CIO policy change was brought about by a number of factors,” Workers’ World noted, “steady changes in the composition of the work force, a new turn to organizing that brought labor face-to-face with anti-worker Immigration and Naturalization Service raids and deportations, and mounting pressure from Latino, Asian and other immigrant-rights activists within the union movement for labor to take a stand in defense of undocumented workers.”


Since 2000, the AFL-CIO has been one of the largest and most active lobbying groups putting pressure on (mostly Democrat) politicians to enact a ‘pathway to citizenship’ (also referred to as ‘amnesty’).

However, in the absence of federal reforms, it now appears that the union movement wants to see initiatives at the state level–like those that have been enacted in California.

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