Friday, December 29, 2006

Senate to Introduce Immigration Bill in Early '07

The U.S. Senate plans to introduce an immigration bill in January, according to the New York Times. The plans follow a meeting in early December between Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ) and Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) to discuss an immigration strategy. The Senate plans to pass the bill in the spring with a House version to follow.

The last session's Senate bill (S. 6211) created a 3-tiered system that required undocumented workers who were in U.S. less than 5 but more than 2 years to leave the U.S. in order to be eligible for any immigrant or non-immigrant visa for which they may later qualify. The New York Times reported that proposals under consideration include removing the requirement for undocumented immigrants to leave the United States in order to apply for permanent residency and subsequently citizenship. According to CongressDaily, however, no decision has been reached.

While AFSC supports a fair and humane adjustment that will bring the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the United States out of a shadow existence, AFSC also strongly advocates for the full recognition and protection of the human rights and labor rights of all people, regardless of their migrant status. Click here for AFSC's perspective on a path to permanent residency and citizenship.

The Senate may also consider denying appropriations for the U.S.-Mexico border fence signed into law in October 2006. Denying funds for the border fence would recognize that building a fence fails to provide an effective solution to this complex issue. Since 1994, at least 4,000 men, women and children have lost their lives attempting to cross the southern border.

Challenges in forthcoming legislation may include increased border enforcement measures, increased employer sanctions, and the guest worker (temporary worker) program. The Secure Fence Act and recent workplace raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and two other states indicate a failed enforcement-only approach which promotes fear and the ongoing vilification of immigrants, destroys family unity, and fails to address the root causes of migration. Future immigration reform policies must be based on the human rights of immigrants and non-immigrants and respect for the labor rights of all of the nation's workers.

In the coming month, members of AFSC's Project Voice Network will be send letters, partner with sister organizations, and visit Congressional offices to press for the inclusion of humane and fair immigration legislation and policies in forthcoming Congressional meetings and debates. Please continue to visit this blog for timely updates and further information on ways to get involved in this critical human and civil rights issue.