Sunday, April 12, 2009

Immigration System Overdue for Overhaul

Recent news coverage and public comments indicate that the Obama Administration is ready to jumpstart the immigration policy discourse. AFSC supports a bipartisan solution to an outdated immigration system that is unfair and long overdue for an overhaul. This newest of efforts is a critical step that needs to be grounded in the facts and not in misguided policies, fears or scapegoating.

Undocumented immigrants and multi-status families* have been forced to live a marginal existence. Many families have been torn apart, while an estimated 5,000 persons have perished in an increasingly militarized southern border.

Our nation would do better if we removed the vulnerable status of undocumented immigrants, which would raise wages and labor standards for everybody.

In the meantime, as many wait for new immigration policies that resolve their tenuous existence and immigration status, far-reaching contributions continue to be made to the nation. For example, in 2005, immigrant households and businesses paid approximately $300 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay nearly $1.5 billion into Medicare and $7 billion into the Social Security system every year, yet are ineligible for public benefits.

Economic vibrancy is only one way that immigrant and undocumented households contribute to the nation. Participation in school activities, in neighborhood watch clubs, involvement in civic and community-building efforts, and the arts and cultural enrichment are some examples of these rich contributions.

Humane and sensible immigration policy should be the focus of the Obama administration and the nation's legislative leaders.

The President can begin this effort by promoting policies that unite families, ensure the labor rights of every worker, and brings the current immigration structure in line with global political, demographic and social realities.

To learn more on how you can support humane immigration policy, visit

*Multi-status families Include those in which one member might be a United States permanent resident or United States citizen, a child(ren) born in the United States and a parent or sibling who is an undocumented immigrant.