President Obama’s immigration agenda has been well received, and in his second term the American public may be more receptive of a plan that would allow the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. An ABC News/Washington Post national poll revealed that 55 percent of respondents were in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, but also that 83 percent wanted tighter security along the nation’s borders.
Congress had attempted to pass immigration reform legislation prior to Obama’s first term, but questions over the long-term status of undocumented workers led to its downfall. American labor unions expressed concerns that a temporary worker program could weaken their organizations because of an influx of seasonal workers.
On Tuesday, Obama met with labor union leaders to discuss immigration solutions that would not impede on the negotiating power of unions. Among the unions involved were the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the United Farm Workers.
The issue of immigration employment currently varies across party lines, with conservatives in favor of a temporary worker program, but not permanent citizenship for undocumented residents. Industries such as agriculture that rely heavily on seasonal workers believe that the temporary work program would be beneficial, but existing employees might be placed at risk if reforms are passed.
“We were talking about trying to fix a broken system,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters after the White House meeting. “We were talking about commonsense reform that has an inclusive and broad path to citizenship that allows us to bring people in and take advantage of that.”
The AFL-CIO has opposed a temporary work program for years, due to its likely impact on its dwindling labor union membership. After the hourlong meeting, the union leaders seemed satsified with the president’s view of their concerns.
“There was joint agreement by everybody in this room and the president, that there must be a pathway to citizenship and it must be meaningful and real,” Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza, said according to CNN. “It’s our job to get the kind of solution that will reflect that meaningful path.”