Executive Council Statement | Immigration

2018 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award

In recognition of its inspiring efforts to organize, uplift and empower immigrant workers and their families from all over the world, the AFL-CIO is proud to present the 2018 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to the National TPS Alliance. Over the past year and a half, the war on workers has taken many dangerous forms, and attacks on immigrants have been a centerpiece. The Trump administration’s decision to strip away status and rights from long-term members of our communities and our unions has destabilized families and jeopardized the futures of hundreds of thousands of working people. The clock is ticking, and if we do not find a solution to the Temporary Protected Status crisis soon, hardworking people will start to lose their work permits in the first week of the new year.

Leading the charge to push back against these punitive policy changes are the workers themselves. Whether they are from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria or Yemen; whether they work in hospitality, construction or the service sector, working people with TPS have come together through the National TPS Alliance to make clear that they contribute to our society and that they, too, are here to stay.

In June 2017, TPS beneficiaries and a diverse range of allies, including unions, immigrant rights groups, community leaders, faith organizations and activists, came together to form the National TPS Alliance. The alliance, anchored by Central American Resource Center Los Angeles and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, advocates for a path to permanent residence for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who cannot return to their home countries.

The alliance has facilitated collective action to demand justice for immigrant workers in coordination with UndocuBlack Network, Laborers (LIUNA) and Working Families United, a coalition of trade unions, including the Bricklayers (BAC), the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), Ironworkers, UNITE HERE and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), with support from the AFL-CIO and many others.

More than 300,000 immigrants have permission to live and work in the United States today due to Temporary Protected Status. TPS holders are taxpayers who are raising families in our communities. They are active in the workforce and the labor movement, and many of them own homes and businesses. The majority of TPS holders have been playing by the rules and contributing to our economy for decades, but their status is now at risk.

Since 1990, the TPS program has allowed immigrants who are unable to return to their home countries due to violent conflict, environmental disasters or instability to live and work in the United States on a temporary basis. Presidents of both parties have generously extended these protections in the past, however, the Trump administration has denied reauthorization to the vast majority of TPS holders, upending their lives. Now it is up to all of us to force Congress to act to provide these workers and their families the protections they deserve.

The AFL-CIO recognizes and honors the leadership of the National TPS Alliance in creating a movement that empowers TPS workers and facilitates collective organizing for fairness, respect and dignity for immigrant workers and their families.