Immigration Blueprint Reveals Tough Road for Immigration Fairness

For Immediate Release

March 20, 2010

For more information, contact:

Catherine Tactaquin 510.459.4457 (mobile)

510.465.1984 ext. 302 (office)

Immigration Blueprint Reveals Challenges for Immigration Fairness

Hard Work, Commitment Needed to End Trauma of Current Policies, Ensure Human Rights

OAKLAND, CA: The "blueprint" for immigration reform recently released by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) points to a difficult road ahead for decent, fair immigration reform. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is very concerned that the provisions described by the senators would extend and deepen harsh enforcement practices that have caused trauma and separation for immigration families, fostered racial profiling and led to tragic deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border of migrants seeking a better life.

Surely, the thousands of people who will rally in Washington tomorrow and in local areas in the coming days, want immigration legislation that treats immigrants fairly, that recognizes their dignity and rights. Unfortunately, the blueprint outlined by the senators and praised by President Obama is not an outline for bold and enlightened legislation. As a "starting point" for real congressional engagement, it sets a low bar for the debate, placing harsh and failed enforcement strategies at its heart in hopes of drawing conservative support, regardless of the human rights consequences of such policies.

While still vague and without many details, the blueprint emphasizes increases in worksite and border enforcement as an apparent trade off for a "tough but fair" legalization program. It promises green cards for the "best and the brightest" — more of the "brain drain" scenario — and refers to so-called "circular migration" as a rationale to provide temporary worker visas to lower-skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. These workers would presumably save their earnings, send remittances home, and then return to their home countries. This is a recipe for disaster, and merely sets up the prospect of more exploited migrant workers with fewer rights, including workers with little access to green cards and who could eventually becoming undocumented.

The senators acknowledged that Americans support legal immigration, but did not mention changes needed in our core legal immigration program. Instead, they mention that in "20 years" Americans "will embrace more welcoming immigration policies" after the tide of undocumented has apparently been contained. We hope this does not mean that they are not prepared to support important changes to the current legal immigration program, emphasizing family unity, as part of the immigration package.

It’s bad enough that the "tough but fair" legalization program they describe would further criminalize the undocumented and would create unnecessary barriers to eligible applicants.

When President Barack Obama took office in January 2008, we sent him an Open Letter joined by thousands of community members, rights advocates and allies in faith, labor and civil rights communities. We urged the new President to commit to principles of human rights. We asked him to end the raids, detentions and deportations that have caused so much hardship in our communities as a prerequisite to a genuine commitment to provide the undocumented with access to legal status. We continue to urge the Administration and members of Congress to focus on core reforms:

  • suspend detentions and deportations while humanitarian policy alternatives are in place, and to reinstate due process;
  • support legalization without the onerous hurdles of past proposals that will limit applications;
  • uphold family reunification as a core principle of immigration policy, and expand and expedite legal immigration;
  • end guestworker programs — provide access to green cards;
  • end the criminalization of immigrants, by repealing employer sanctions, and stopping the militarization of the border and local police collaboration programs;
  • strengthen labor law enforcement for all workers, regardless of citizenship or immigration status;
  • ensure immigrant access to services.

Immigration is not just a domestic policy issue; it is tied to policies that create displacement and forced migration. In committing to tackle immigration reform this time around, policymakers also need to ensure that U.S. foreign and economic policies promote global sustainable economic development and environments, job creation, and peace, so that migration is an option and not a last resort for economic survival.

Despite the President’s and the senators’ promises to move forward on immigration reform, we have no illusions about the difficult road ahead. But there is an important step that can be taken now. We urge the Administration to act swiftly to support immigrant community participation in this critical Census 2010. Suspend immigration enforcement activities so that immigrants, many fearful and unaware of the Census, are encouraged to complete and return their Census forms. This also affects their lives and the lives of us all over the next 10 years. (Read our letter to President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano on enforcement and the census here.)

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