The Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution on April 28 declaring that illegal aliens have a fundamental right to work in the United States, aptly forgetting about the United States Constitution, federal law, and the laws of most, if not all, other developed nations. Indeed, federal law prohibits employers from hiring noncitizens unless they have received work authorization from the federal government.
The resolution, passed just one business day before May Day, recognizes “every person’s fundamental right to earn a living, regardless of immigration status, and affirming the City of Philadelphia’s commitment to protect and secure a safe and dignified workplace for all.” The Council approved the resolution 14-3, despite glaring conflicts with the resolution’s message with the concept of citizenship and the Rule of Law.
The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly held that the United States, as a sovereign nation, has the right to exclude aliens from its borders. This power is a basic attribute of sovereignty. The United States Constitution assigns this power specifically to Congress, and Congress, with its plenary authority, has delegated some authority to the Executive Branch. Included in Congress’ plenary authority is the power limit employment eligibility to it citizens, and lawmakers have good reason to protect its citizens from potential flooding of the labor market. Under Congress’s current immigration scheme, not even all immigrants in the United States legally have the right to work.
The resolution, although not binding in any capacity, also sends the wrong message to those concerned about workers’ rights. Ironically, the policy agenda the Philadelphia City Council is advocating hurts low-income workers in particular. By turning a blind eye to the rule of law and fostering a society where unauthorized aliens are free to work despite their unlawful presence, these policies would give employers free rein to exploit their employees and keep wages low.
Even esteemed labor activist Cesar Chavez opposed illegal aliens’ ability to work in the United States. Chavez strongly supported immigration enforcement and believed that mass illegal immigration robs workers, especially low-income workers, of their bargaining power. He also believed illegal aliens are impediments to the labor movement, stating “If we can get the illegals out of California, we will win the strike overnight,” and organized a campaign to identify and remove unauthorized workers from the United States.
Lawmakers that are truly concerned about labor conditions in the United States should consider supporting immigration enforcement, rather. Immigration enforcement is one of many keys to ensuring labor conditions and workers’ rights are protected in the United States. Without such, the most vulnerable classes of Americans (their constituents) are deprived of a voice and meaningful ways to make a living.