Friday, August 03, 2007

Immigration Proposal Far Short of Substantive Solution

Legislative Actions Continue Downward Spiral and Same Old Policies

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) expresses its strong opposition to the recently introduced bill S. 1984. This latest attempt is not a sound or constructive legislative remedy to the nation's immigration problem.

In fact, it is a proposal that re-hatches failed immigration policies, continues a troubling trend to include additional penalties that harm undocumented immigrant families, and the steady drumbeat of punitive enforcement measures while doing little - if anything - to repair and rebuild the current immigration system. This legislative proposal offers little hope of producing workable, realistic or constructive solutions.

U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John Cornyn (R-TX) are the lead sponsors of this bill which contains an assortment of already failed provisions. These include
  • the ongoing militarization of the southern border and the construction of 700 miles of border fencing by the Department of Homeland Security;
  • enforcement of immigration laws by state & local law enforcement bodies;
  • increased worksite enforcement and the establishment of a national electronic employment verification system;
  • increased border personnel (to 14,000 new Border Patrol Agents), augmented technology and vehicle barriers; and
  • new detention space to hold border crossers.
"Why are legislators repeating the mistakes of the past? There is nothing new or creative about this bill. This latest proposal leads down the same punitive path of enforcement and border militarization. The proposal lacks substantive solutions and does not resolve the presence of 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States," remarked Esther Nieves, director of AFSC's national immigrant rights program.

AFSC's immigrant rights work has historically been grounded in its successful partnerships with local and national allies including faith, labor and community organizations. The enforcement-only approach presented in this latest legislative plan is not what immigrant communities need - or want. Nor does this proposal reflect the consistent support the nation's citizenry has expressed for bringing undocumented immigrants and workers into the full light of our society.

AFSC is troubled that these measures will lead to the violation of the basic due process, civil and human rights of non-status immigrants. This severe approach to the presence of undocumented immigrants and laborers will do nothing to integrate those who are already here nor will new walls, fences, technology or increased personnel patrolling the southern border alter the reality of global economic, political and social forces. Moreover, succumbing to disturbing nativist and restrictionist tendencies is not an effective method for the formulation of sound and workable national public policies.

"The increased militarization of the border has already created a human rights nightmare along the US-Mexico divide, increased fencing and beef-up at the border without taking clear steps towards accountability and oversight will have deadly consequences for our communities," said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC's San Diego Area Office. Since 1994, over 4,500 men, women and children have lost their lives attempting to enter the United States.

AFSC, therefore, strongly urges Congressional leaders to soundly reject S. 1984. AFSC urges the general public to contact their Congressional legislators and press them to continue a bipartisan dialogue which leads to solution-based, and achievable immigration legislation. These solutions include a path to lawful permanent residency, fair labor laws for immigrants and non-immigrants, and the opportunity to keep families intact, and able to contribute to the growth and future vibrancy of our nation.