Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mapping the Current Immigration Landscape

Candidates proposing anti-immigrant policies failed to win mid-term election seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to analysts. The scapegoating of immigrants especially drew Hispanic voters away from candidates. According to The Hill, "enforcement-first as a cure-all election strategy" failed. Election analysis echoes criticisms of the summer 2006 House "hearings" on immigration, which focused on enforcement and excluded immigrant communities and rights advocates. Although the six-point legislative agenda identified by the House Democrats does not include immigration, some analysts anticipate that Congress could move on immigration reform.

However, newly elected members in the House may not agree with measures in the latest version of the Senate bill on immigration reform. In a press conference following the elections, President Bush stated that he thinks there is a "good chance" of immigration reform, which must include a guest worker provision. Several anti-immigrant ballot initiatives passed in Arizona and Colorado. According to Denver-based AFSC Project Voice Regional Organizer Gabriela Flora, the Colorado initiatives were "based on the assumption that undocumented immigrants are here to harm our communities rather than recognizing the humanity and contributions of immigrants."

Despite these misguided initiatives, AFSC's Colorado team worked in coalitions to successfully prevent a ballot amendment denying public services to undocumented immigrants from reaching the ballot. In the absence of federal immigration reform measures, ballot initiatives and local ordinances in cities such as Hazelton, PA and Escondido, CA continue to target immigrant communites across the country. The "hearings" held this past summer and election campaign period failed to listen to or include immigrant voices seeking comprehensive solutions. Rather than building a fence around the issue, immigrant voices must be brought into the conversation for change. Let's ensure that the new Congressional composition - and the Bush administration - move in this direction and create immigration policies that are fair and based on reality and not on rhetoric or coded hatred.