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Advocates Push the "Dollars and Sense" of Immigration Reform

November 13, 2008

New York, NY — President-elect Obama is being pressured to take quick action on the economy, and New York immigration reform advocates say a path to legalization for undocumented workers makes both "dollars and sense."

Saru Jayaraman, co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, says with 13 million workers, restaurants are the nation's largest private sector employer, and the largest private contributor to job growth in New York. And, she says, the industry's driving force is foreign-born workers, including a significant number who are undocumented.

"In New York City, 40 percent of all restaurant workers are undocumented and 70 percent are foreign-born. Without immigrants, the industry would just shut down. This is one of the few industries that’s somewhat strong and stable through this economic crisis."

More than 100 New Yorkers who are concerned about immigration reform are in California today to sign onto a national "compact for racial justice." Among them is Rinku Sen, author of the The Accidental American and executive director of the Applied Research Center, the compact's host. He says the compact makes the case that the nation cannot escape its biggest problems unless it includes the foreign-born in the solution.

"We are going to need to be looking at the long-term problems, and the inclusion of immigrants is key to achieving racial justice in any other area; in healthcare, in job creation, in education."

A new Zogby poll finds a majority of Americans still favor cracking down on employers that hire undocumented workers, while the restaurant industry argues it can’t grow under the constant threat of raids. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United hopes the new president will end the raids by executive order in January.

The compact may be viewed online at

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY