A dozen Los Angeles-area unions announced Friday that they have launched a joint immigrant assistance project to help undocumented aliens qualify for legal resident status during the next year under the new immigration law.
William R. Robertson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the unions expect to counsel more than 25,000 aliens at six sites--making the project second in size only to the Catholic Church program in this area.
He said local unions had contributed more than $100,000 to fund the program. "The labor movement is deeply committed to helping immigrant workers and their families become free of the fear of deportation and eventually to become American citizens if they so desire," Robertson said at a press conference.
"Immigration reform is the most important issue confronting California unions," said David Sickler, western regional director of the AFL-CIO. "By helping these brave new immigrants to become legal, we can improve the bargaining power and living standards of all workers in every workplace."
Richard Rothstein, California director of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, said he thought that a third of the union's 10,000 members in California would qualify for amnesty under the 1986 immigration act. That law grants temporary resident status to those undocumented aliens who can prove they were in the United States before Jan. 1, 1982, and have lived and worked continuously in the United States since then. These immigrants have one year to apply for legalization starting Tuesday.
Attorney Ernesto Medrano, the labor immigration project coordinator, said that by Tuesday, full-time processing centers will be open at two union halls in Central Los Angeles, plus others in the City of Commerce, El Monte, Mission Hills and Pomona. He said intake and counseling for union members and the general public also will take place periodically at two dozen other union offices throughout the county.
Medrano also said that if six processing teams prove insufficient to meet the demand, the labor federation will add more document counselors in new sites in locations that may include Santa Ana and Riverside.
"A primary goal of the legalization project is to make available long-term, low-cost counseling by a voluntary agency that workers can trust and count on to aggressively take their side," said Steve Nutter, regional director of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and chairman of the federation's immigration committee.
Fees for Counseling
Union members and their families will be charged $40 each or a maximum of $100 per family for counseling, Nutter said. He said the general public will be served on a space-available basis for a fee of $60 or a maximum of $150 per family. Fingerprinting, photos and copying necessary to complete the application will be provided for an additional fee.
Sample materials that will be distributed to immigrants were displayed. They were written in English, Spanish and five Asian languages. Art Takei, vice president of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770, said about 100,000 Asian immigrants nationwide may gain citizenship as a result of the new law.
In Washington on Friday, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement announced that it, too, was launching an outreach program to help immigrants cope with the new law. Jack Otero, the organization's president, criticized the Immigration and Naturalization Service for failing to publish the rules implementing the new law in Spanish as well as in English.
At the press conference here, Sickler also criticized the INS for drafting regulations to implement the new law that fail to guarantee that the spouse and children of a worker who qualifies for legal status will be protected from deportation. He said the labor movement will continue its efforts to have those rules modified to guarantee that families will not be split.
Here are the addresses of the centers:
1. Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Hall, 2501 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.
2. International Ladies Garments Workers, 675 S. Park View St., Los Angeles.
3. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1710, 3552 Lexington Ave., El Monte.
4. Laborers International Union Local 300, 14800 Devonshire, Mission Hills.
5. United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1752, 1144 E. 2nd St., Pomona.
6. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, 6801 E. Washington Blvd., City of Commerce.