Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), acknowledged publicly that a newly-built immigrant services center in Jersey City would be just the ticket to bring in more votes for Democrats.
The grand opening of the We Are One New Jersey immigration center brought out various Hudson County politicians to celebrate the new project of the AFL-CIO, which is designed to give free counseling to legal permanent immigrants, offer them a free 10-week class on how to take the U.S. citizenship test, and register the new citizens so they can vote.
Gebre, an Ethiopian immigrant, was optimistic that the labor union’s project would gain enough Democrats to alter areas from red to blue. He opined, “We need your voice in the daily running of our country. We need your voice to go to the polling place and vote, to be counted on in decisions that we make in this country.”
In an aside, he said, “In addition to that obvious fact, this is also good for the immigrants themselves.”
Gebre noted that Orange County, California, a former GOP hotspot, gave former President Bill Clinton 38% of the vote in 1996, but in 2012, the same county gave Barack Obama 45% of their vote. He commented, “That didn’t just happen by itself. People worked on it, like you guys are here starting something today.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez praised the We Are One project in New Jersey, stating that it would help legal immigrants locate better jobs, education, and health care. Senator Cory Booker added, “the diversity, the tapestry, the rainbow of the globe, here in America, is what has always made us strong.”
Jeff Bell, running against Booker, said Gebre is “absolutely right” that new citizens would be likely Democratic candidates. He added, “It’s a disgrace that the Republican Party has allowed this issue to be forfeited to the Democrats,” also noting that Obama and congressional Democrats have done “nothing” for the immigrants vis-à-vis immigration reform. He stated that he favors more permanent visas and “a path for legality” for illegal immigrants who have already crossed the border.