Media Statement

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Maria Lorena Cook, an ILR professor of comparative labor and author of several books on labor movements in Latin America and unauthorized migration, issued a statement to the media today (March 1) following a Trump administration announcement yesterday. The White House said it was open to granting legal status to undocumented workers who have not committed serious crimes.

Cook says a U.S. immigration policy must include a legal pathway for millions of workers whose labor has become central to agriculture, construction, hospitality and services sectors.

“Trump’s hinted proposal to legalize undocumented immigrants, and admit people based on a ‘merit-based’ criteria does not address one of the major weaknesses of the U.S. immigration system: the lack of a legal pathway for millions of workers whose labor has become central to the U.S. agriculture, construction, hospitality and services sectors.

“It is precisely this lack of legal immigration options for many low-skill immigrant workers, coupled with the structural dependence of broad sectors of the U.S. economy on immigrant workers, that is responsible for the large number of undocumented immigrants in the country today.

“Even if Congress eventually succeeds in passing a legalization program for undocumented immigrants already in the country, without a legal pathway for future immigrants that includes low-skilled workers, the major flaws of our immigration system will remain.”