Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fair and Just Immigration Reform

National Statement to Support Human and Civil Rights
for All Immigrants And to Oppose Compromise Immigration
Reform Proposals

April 2006

Fair and Just Immigration Reform for All

We stand together as immigrant, faith, social justice,
labor, peace, human and civil rights organizations and
other concerned communities to support human and civil
rights for all immigrants and to oppose the immigration
'reform' proposals presently in the U.S. Senate. We
oppose H.R. 4437, the immigration bill passed in the
House of Representatives in December, as well as all of
the compromise bills presented in the Senate.

We call upon members of Congress and the Administration
to stop masquerading these proposals as immigration
reform. We demand nothing less than immigration
policies that are fair and just, and that respect the
rights and dignity of all immigrants and other members
of our society.

The rush to reach a bipartisan accord on immigration
legislation has led to a compromise that would create
deep divisions within the immigrant community and leave
millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows of
our country. We oppose the behind-the-scenes brokering
currently playing out in the legislative process. These
trade-offs and deals are based on election-year
campaigning and demands by business lobbyists, rather
than on the best interests and voices of immigrant
communities. We say, 'No deal!'

In a re-ignited civil rights movement, millions of
immigrants, their families, neighbors and co-workers,
along with faith and labor leaders, peace and justice
advocates, have marched and rallied in cities across
the U.S. The mobilizations have served as a wake-up
call for the whole country to acknowledge the vital
role of immigrants as co-workers, neighbors and members
of our broad society. And, as details of the current
legislative compromise have become known, the voices of
immigrant communities are rejecting the proposals for a
so-called legalization program, and are denouncing the
further erosion of human and civil rights through the
enforcement and criminalization provisions. The stakes
are considerable, and affect all of us.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1986
legalization and employer sanctions law, and the 10th
anniversary of the restrictive Illegal Immigration
Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. We cannot
allow the current proposals to be enacted as this
generation's flawed immigration reform legacy.

What We Want: Fair and Just Immigration Reform

Fair and just immigration reform means:

* Genuine legalization and opportunities to adjust
status for all undocumented immigrants, including youth
and farmworkers

* Preservation of due process, including restoration of
access to the courts and meaningful judicial review for

* No indefinite detention or expansion of mandatory

* No expansion of guest worker programs

* No more wasted resources allocated to further
militarize our borders and that contribute to the
crisis of human rights and lives in the border regions

* An end to employer sanctions and electronic worker
verification systems

* The strengthening and enforcement of labor law
protections for all workers, native and foreign born

* No use of city, state or other government agencies in
the enforcement of immigration law

* No more criminalization of immigrants, or their
service providers

* Expansion of legal immigration opportunities, support
for family reunification and immediate processing of
the backlog of pending visa applications

* Elimination of harsh obstacles to immigrating,
including the HIV ban, '3 and 10 year bars,' and high
income requirements for immigrant sponsors.

The Current 'Legalization' Proposal is Unacceptable

The proposed 3-tiered temporary worker program offers
little hope for broad, inclusive legalization of
undocumented immigrants. What some are calling a 'path
to citizenship' in the last Senate bill is merely a
massive temporary worker program without worker
protections, and contains numerous hurdles that will
drastically limit the number of undocumented immigrants
who can actually legalize. Such a program would divide
communities, including mixed-status families, erode
wage and benefits standards, and place a greater burden
on safety-net services.

The Enforcement Proposals Undermine All of our Rights

Significant provisions in the current Senate proposals
would dramatically undermine a broad array of rights,
increase the criminalization of all immigrants, result
in mass deportations, and unfairly exclude millions
from eligibility for any legalization opportunity. The
expansion of expedited removal would eliminate the
right to a court hearing, while the broadened
definition of 'aggravated felony' to include many minor
offenses would result in mandatory detention and mass
deportations. The proposals also seek to reinstate
indefinite detention and increase detention facilities,
including the use of closed military bases. Encouraging
local police to enforce immigration law would not only
add an additional burden that detracts from current
responsibilities, but would discourage immigrant access
to public safety institutions.

Moreover, the increased resources to militarize the
border, which has already cost over $30 billion in the
past 12 years, has not deterred unauthorized border
crossings and instead has caused a humanitarian crisis
with the deaths of some 4,000 people in the desert.
Current border enforcement policies, laws and
practices, without provision for safe and legal entry,
have resulted in the detention and criminalization of
tens of thousands of people at a significant daily cost
to taxpayers.

The Proposals Fail to Protect Workers

The current proposals would further erode already weak
labor protections and rights for immigrants and other
workers. Immigrant workers have historically been used
as 'cheap labor' by employers and industries unwilling
to pay decent wages or to maintain reasonable working
conditions. These proposals continue in that same
shameful vein, and are designed to force and keep wages
down to compete with cheap labor suppliers globally.

Workers need more, not less, rights. A real
legalization proposal needs to be coupled with the
repeal of employer sanctions, the provision of the
landmark 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that
has led to the criminalization of immigrant workers,
and which would be deepened through an expansion of an
employment verification system. This program has done
nothing in the last twenty years but increase
discrimination and abuse of immigrant workers.

Employers have had greater leverage to threaten and
intimidate immigrant workers, break organizing efforts,
carry out unjust firings, and lower wages and work
conditions for all working people. These abuses impact
the entire American workforce, particularly the most
vulnerable toiling in low-wage jobs such as
farmworkers, day laborers and domestic workers.

No Expansion of Guest Worker Programs

A key concern is the significant expansion of guest
worker programs found in almost all Senate proposals
and supported by the Administration. We oppose these
programs both when they are tied to legalization for
undocumented immigrants already living and working
here, and as a means for managing future flows of
immigrants into the United States. The U.S. does not
have a shortage of workers; what we have is a shortage
of employers willing to pay a living wage and maintain
decent working conditions.

Guest worker programs have been condemned by labor and
immigrant communities for their long record of
violations of labor rights and standards, including
blacklists and deportations of workers who protest. In
1964, Ernesto Galarza, Cesar Chavez and other defenders
of workplace rights won the abolition of the old
Bracero guest worker program. The purpose of that
program, they said, was the creation a vulnerable
workforce in order to drive down wages and break union
organizing efforts among immigrants and non-immigrants
alike. The purpose of current proposals is the same.
Temporary, contract workers are prevented the option of
putting down roots and becoming full and equal members
of our communities.

Future migrants should not be forced to accept a
second-class status, violating our country's most basic
commitments to equality. They should be given permanent
residence status, allowing them to work and travel
freely, to exercise their labor rights, and to live as
any other member of our society.

No Compromise, No Deal on Fair and Just Immigration

In recent years, immigrant community members, including
youth and students, farmworkers and others, have
effectively organized and rallied in support of
legislative proposals to strengthen their rights and
opportunities to be equal members of this society.
Despite the loud and determined voice of immigrant
communities, advocates and supporters for fair and just
immigration reform this year, we have yet to see an
acceptable proposal from Congress. And with H.R. 4437
already passed by the House, we are very aware that any
proposal from the Senate would be subject to further
compromise in a Senate-House reconciliation process,
and would likely produce laws that would detrimentally
affect current and future immigrants for years to come.

Increased enforcement does not address the complex
issue of global migration. Employer sanctions and
beefed up border security have been in place for
decades as deterrents to migration, and yet the number
of undocumented continues to grow. The sources of
migration rest in the problems of economic and
political instability, poverty and war in migrant-
sending countries.

Despite the urgency of the immigration issue in this
country, it is clearly not just a 'domestic' issue and
our policies need to consider support for economic
stability, fair trade agreements and peace as vital to
addressing the migration of people in search of work,
survival, and safety.

We will continue to raise our voices for genuine
immigration reform that respects the rights and dignity
of all immigrants, and is fair and just. Immigrant
workers, students and families are making incredible
sacrifices to raise their voices for themselves and
future generations, in the face of recriminations and
disciplinary actions from employers and schools. As
immigrant communities continue to mobilize for their
rights, on May 1 and beyond, we will support their
right and choice to express themselves.

We pledge to increase public education efforts and the
building and mobilization of meaningful alliances, and
we will encourage and support immigrant community
leadership to advance real immigration reform. We call
upon Congress and the Administration to heed the voices
of immigrant communities demanding genuine immigration
reforms: real legalization, equitable inclusion in our
society, justice, and respect for human rights.


National Immigration Statement on Fair and Just
Immigration Reform April 2006


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fax to (510) 465-1885

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