New immigration bill would continue key failures of the current system
American Friends Immigrant Services Program Coordinator Herman Martinez speaks with a legislative aide to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).Photo: AFSC/Bryan Vana
Quaker group: Fair path to citizenship must stand on more humane principles
PHILADELPHIA (April 16, 2013) - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) finds the summary of the immigration bill released by eight U.S. Senators today a far cry from the just and humane reforms that immigrant communities, faith, labor and advocacy groups have been calling for. Instead it reproduces, and even doubles down on, many of the current failed policies.
“The Senate bill fails to address the real and urgent need of undocumented people to achieve legal status in the US. Furthermore, it would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, or the militarization of the border that has devastated communities on both sides of the border,” said Gabriel Camacho, director of AFSC’s Project Voice program in Cambridge, Mass., and Amy Gottlieb director of AFSC’s immigrants’ rights program in Newark, N.J.
Gabriel explained that as summarized, the bill would “rely on a ten-year ‘measurable’ border security trigger before any undocumented person would be eligible to apply for legal permanent residency. It would waste billions on drones, costly high-tech gadgetry and personnel. It would demand that Congress certify the border as ‘secure’ before any other provision of the bill could be enacted. And that means Congress could keep redefining what ‘secure’ means – a never ending process.”
While final language has not been released, the bill as summarized does nothing to restrain Border Patrol violence. Since 2010, the Border Patrol has claimed the lives of 20 unarmed civilians. Federal agents operate with impunity, systematically violating the human rights and civil liberties of border residents. Accountability and oversight for this agency must be a top priority. Estimates are that 500 people trying to cross the border lose their lives annually, a direct consequence of border militarization.
The summary shows the bill would force private sector employers to use the highly flawed and costly electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System. The expansion of employment verification programs such as E-Verify and I-9 audits will put labor protections of all workers at risk.
“We are gratified to see that the summary does begin an important conversation about future flows of workers to the US, by identifying significant labor and wage standard protections and opportunities to apply for permanent status and supporting family unity,” Amy said.
“But it is hard to see how this obstacle-strewn path, with its many onerous conditions, takes seriously the demands of immigrants for real reform. Clearly there will be many who continue to live in the shadows, subject to the cruelties of a broken system including exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers.
“The immigration system needs fundamental repair, and as summarized, this bill not only fails to offer real improvements but it increases investment in the current system’s failed policies,” Amy said.
The AFSC implores Congress to adopt compassionate and effective immigration reforms that are grounded in the following principles:
- Develop humane economic policies to reduce forced migration.
- Protect the labor rights of all workers.
- Develop a quick path to legal permanent residency and a clear path to citizenship.
- Respect the civil and human rights of immigrants.
- Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Make family reunification a top priority.
- Ensure that immigrants and refugees have access to services.
AFSC has created A New Path, which lays out policy priorities for humane immigration reform that protects the human rights of all people. These principles are derived from nine decades of work with immigrant communities, whose voices must be heard as we seek meaningful and humane policies.