Why Immigration Reform Matters to North Carolina

Katie Gregg reports from North Carolina.

Amid a flurry of last minute activity in the North Carolina General Assembly, including a truly awful voter-suppression bill, our members are thinking ahead to the August recess. We’re looking forward to the return of the folks who represent us in the U.S. House of Representatives, so we can tell them, face-to-face, that now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Christin, a Working America member from Greensboro, NC, is all too familiar with the urgency of immigration reform. Her parents were immigrants to the US Virgin Islands from St. Lucia decades ago. She and her five siblings were in their teens by the time their parents had finally completed the United States’ lengthy immigration process—one that had begun more than two decades earlier. “The process to get legal status in the US or become an American citizen should not take decades. We need to allow those who are here to get their documents sooner, so that they can start paying taxes and contributing towards building a better economy,” said Christin.

By most estimates, North Carolina has roughly 300,000 undocumented workers. Large corporations take advantage of the status of these workers and pay them under the table, often in very poor conditions and for desperately low pay. As a result, they have little incentive to hire more workers or pay much above minimum wage. Christin has friends who have applied for work only to be told they would be hired at $7.25 per hour. She and so many others know that’s not nearly enough on which to raise a family. Clearly the only winners here are these corporations, which continue to make record profits and hold record power while we suffer the effects of record unemployment.

Christin says her parents came to the US because they wanted to make sure their kids had better opportunities in life than they themselves had. Passing comprehensive immigration reform in Congress is one thing we can do to make sure all workers are able to provide that same opportunity for their children, and we know the only way this will work is if we stand together and let our elected officials know with a unified voice, “The time is now.”

Lobby meetings, petitions, phone calls, and letters are just some of the ways you can get involved with pressuring our politicians to support a pathway to citizenship. If you’re in North Carolina, email me at [email protected] to find out how you can help.

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