And they’re off! “The Road to Immigration Reform Starts Today!” announced one organizational email. They are talking about a set of immigration reform principles – not an actual bill – that was released today by a bi-partisan group of eight senators :Senators Bennet (D–CO), Durbin (D–IL), Flake (R–AZ), Graham (R–SC), McCain (R–AZ), Menendez (D–NJ), Rubio (R–FL), and Schumer (D–NY).
What’s interesting about all the congratulatory messages that ask people to support immigration reform, is that they lack an actual analysis of what is in the principles. Since the principles include “a pathway to citizenship”, it’s assumed to be good enough.
It is extremely disheartening to read messaging that renders invisible the years of work by immigration and human rights activists. Claiming that the work begins now, denies the role that some of these very same “pro-migrant” orgs have played in watering down the demands of comprehensive immigration reform. It has now become acceptable to become reactive instead of proactive. Instead of telling the administration and Congress what we want, we are expected to celebrate lawmakers rehashing old policies and basically doing their job – working together. IIt is no longer enough to say, stop the deportations. That is obvious and it has been for some time.
It is no longer enough to say that enforcement only policies like Secure Communities need to be defunded. We have to be willing to stand up and say things like:
1: The border is “secure” so let’s stop pouring money into agencies and organizations that put more boots on the ground and enforcement technology.
2: Being able to live in the United States “with papers” shouldn’t be based on some merit system that awards the “smart” immigrants. If we really want to award success then we need to look at how the educational system in the US perpetuates cycles of poverty and underachievement, filtering a limited amount of “success stories”.
3: Employment verification systems like E-Verify have proven themselves flawed and harmful to the labor market so stop the push to make this mandatory. Immigrants are not taking peoples’ jobs. That’s the unspoken subtext. Cut it out. We will not accept the introduction of a biometric identification card which has been the subtext for much of this portion of discussion in years past.
4: We don’t want a guest worker program. We want fair labor standards for farmworkers. How is the proposed Agricultural Worker Program different from H-2A visa program already in place?
5. This get to the back of the line language means people who are already in the United State will have to wait how long before they can get papers? 10 years? 20 years? Is this the beginning of an expanded DACA like program that will allow people to stay in the US in a limbo status indefinitely? How do immigration court backlogs figure into this line?
6: Who will determine what makes an immigrant “seriously criminal” or a threat to national security and thus ineligible for citizenship and targeted for deportation?
7. Limits on accessing federal public benefits for “lawful probationary immigrants” helps to perpetuate poverty and poor health outcomes in immigrant communities. This isn’t being “tough”, this is punishment.
8: Having an English language requirement in order to earn a green card is reminiscent of Jim Crow era literacy laws. There is already a proficiency requirement to become a naturalized citizenship. Making it a requirement for permanent residency has one intention, to limit the amount of people eligible.
9: Creating a fast track to citizenship for DREAMers and some agricultural workers while leaving others to languish in undefined lines will serve to further separate families who have mixed statuses and mixed immigration histories. No to a hierarchy of applicants.
I have read the principles and don’t think there is much to praise. A framework is not a policy change and we have had multiple frameworks put out there already. i think it’s especially important to note that there is no mention in the framework of same lgbtq immigrant families and how they would earn their pathway to legalization or citizenship. I’m a little tired of politicians going on tours, again, holding townhalls, again, that will inevitably lead to the same point unless we do something different. Touting an “earned” pathway to citizenship ignores the anti-immigrant histories and policies in the United States. If anyone has to earn anything, Congress and President Obama need to earn the trust of our communities by giving us more than just the same old same old.