Thursday, March 08, 2007

Unity position: Immigration reform


MAPA and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana present the document below - Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform - as the culmination of months of consensus-building between literally hundreds of organizations, their allies, affiliates, and friends for the purpose of presenting the story and legislative proposals of the immigrant communities in favor of federal immigration reform. The organizations have worked very hard to reach consensus on the most difficult issues, and this is our legislative program. We present this to the U.S. Congress and we will use this to organize our communities, build broader consensus across communities, and continue building the immigrants' rights movement throughout our country. Where disagreements continue to exist between our organizations, we will continue to press for unity, maintain a constructive dialogue, and deepen our consultation with our own immigrant communities.

To: Members of the United States Congress
The Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform provides specific legislative proposals for rational and humane transformation of the current immigration policy disaster in the United States. These proposals were developed in several meetings in California, Arizona, and Texas, with over 150 organizations participating in discussions leading to the Unity Blueprint proposals. While organizations may vary widely on the strategies they adopt to bring about immigration reform, the Unity Blueprint provides positions of unity on the substance of immigration reform.

As stated in the Preamble to the Unity Blueprint, the United States urgently requires a workable, just, and fair immigration system that addresses the interests of the nation and the millions of immigrants who give their labor, talents, and investments to it without the benefit of protections and rights extended to its citizenry. We believe that the Unity Blueprint proposals are both in the national interest and in the interest of its immigrant communities. The Blueprint is built upon the unity of interests between the nation and its immigrant workers and communities.

The following is a summary of the essential provisions of the Unity Blueprint

1. Protect the well-being and safety of immigrant and U.S. citizen children. Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to permit the parents of U.S. citizens to petition through their US citizen children under 21 years of age, avoiding the deportation of the parents of US citizen children and allowing such children equal opportunities with other citizen children. Support enactment of the DREAM Act. Support enactment of the Child Citizen Protection Act. Amend the INA to require that apprehended immigrant children are informed about rights they possess to legalize their status under existing laws enacted by Congress and are afforded the assistance of counsel.

2. Achieve faithful enforcement of immigration laws by reinstating the jurisdiction of the federal courts to review agency decisions involving immigrants. Repeal provisions in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and the 2005 Real ID Act that strip the courts of their historic role to ensure that the Executive faithfully implements the laws of Congress.

3. Achieve maximum protection of the labor rights and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers. Repeal current Employer Sanctions laws that are ineffective in stopping the hiring of undocumented migrants but cause widespread discrimination against citizens and are used to further threaten and exploit undocumented workers. Bring antidiscrimination protections in the INA into line with those in other civil rights laws. Ensure that immigration enforcement complements rather than undermines the enforcement of labor and employment laws. Review international trade agreements that contribute to undocumented migration. Prohibit States from considering immigration status in determining worker benefits. Increase budgets for the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

4. Achieve maximum reduction in the size of the undocumented population. Enact a single-tier and truly comprehensive legalization program offered to all undocumented persons who have not committed serious crimes so as to make them a danger to their communitites. Provide an expedited legalization program for long-time resident Central American and other refugees previously granted some form of temporary status.

5. Achieve a realistic legal framework for future migration. Restructure the immigration quota system to better match the known family and employment-based demand. Ensure that the issuance of permanent and temporary employment- based visas are determined by labor needs based upon reliable economic indicators, rather than an employer-driven system that is easily gamed. Temporary worker programs should not be expanded and must be reformed to provide full labor rights and the ability to seek resident status after three years. Repeal the 3 and 10-year and permanent bars that prevent immigrants from legalizing their status. Restore the ability of immigrants to legalize status in the U.S. despite overstaying visas or entering without inspection.

6. Achieve rational and humane operational control of the borders. Require that migrants apprehended entering the country be informed of rights extended to them by Congress before they are deported (rights available to victims of trafficking and violent crimes, and abused and abandoned unaccompanied juveniles). Prohibit the use of U.S. military forces for border enforcement. Make enforcement of laws to prevent vigilantism a priority and monitor vigilante activity. Decriminalize humanitarian assistance to migrants injured while attempting to enter the country. Make border enforcement solely a federal function. Repeal the Secure Fence Act of 2006 in its entirety. Prohibit Border Patrol high speed chases and use of deadly force except when required to protect life or serious injury. Repeal recently enacted laws that permit “expedited removal” of certain migrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border. Enact legislation permitting border crossing by indigenous people. Set up an Independent Commission to provide accountability, consultation, and monitoring of federal border policies and practices.

7. Achieve rational and humane interior enforcement and related policies relating to the presence of immigrant communities. Enact legislation prohibiting mass non-individualized detentions of citizens and immigrants at work sites and elsewhere. Repeal the recent law that bars States from issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrant drivers. Grant suspension of deportation or registry to immigrants of good moral character with five years continuous residence. Repeal recent laws that prevent release on bond for apprehended migrants who are not a flight risk or risk to the community. Enact legislation making removal proceedings open to the public. Enact legislation making technical violations of registration requirements punishable by civil penalties. Require accuracy in the National Crime Information Center database. Enact legislation to amend the definition of an “aggravated felony” in the INA (now includes misdemeanors and non- aggravated crimes). Enact legislation to prohibit the retroactive application of immigration laws. Enact laws to grant immigrants full access to financial institutions.

Long-range immigration policy must also address the underlying root causes that drive migration to the United States, including massive inequality in wealth distribution, economic dislocation in major sending communities, and free trade agreements that have caused workers to loose their jobs in migrant sending communities. No rational policy can ignore these realities.

The Unity Blueprint of legislative proposals is intended to guide legislators, advocates, and the public on the framework of a rational and humane immigration policy that protects and promotes the interests of children, U.S. workers, immigrant workers, sending communities from which immigrants come, and the communities in which they live and work in the United States.

[If you support the framework of the Unity Blueprint and would like to co-sign this letter, or have comments, please email Pablo Alvarado, Dolores Huerta, Rosa Rosales, Angela Sanbrano, and Peter Schey]

Pablo Alvarado
National Coordinator, National Day Laborers Organizing Network

Maria Elena Durazo
Executive Secretary- Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

Father Richard Estrada
Our Lady Queen of Angels, Los Angeles

Antonio Gonzalez
President, William C. Velasquez Institute

Dolores Huerta
President, Dolores Huerta Foundation & Co-Founder of the United Farmworkers Union

Victor Narro
Project Director, UCLA Downtown Labor Center

Rosa Rosales
National President, League of United Latin American Citizens

Angelica Salas
Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, and

Angela Sanbrano
Executive Director, Central American Resource Center (Los Angeles) and President of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities

Peter Schey
President & Ex. Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL).


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