For immediate release: July 2, 2013
Abraham Paulos (English) migrantpoweralliance 646 290 8720
Denise Romero (Spanish) migrantpoweralliance 646 290 8720
Immigrant and Human Rights Organizations Reject Senate Immigration Reform Bill
The Migrant Power Alliance, a coalition of immigrant and human rights groups in New York City, strongly opposes the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744) passed in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, June 27th. We oppose the Senate bill because, although it is labeled a “reform”, the bill will exacerbate the main problems already present in the immigration system. If made law, the Senate bill would exclude a major portion of immigrants from the path to citizenship; it will criminalize immigrants, expand the already bloated detention and deportation industries; and it will further militarize the US-Mexico border leading to more deaths and destabilized border communities.
- The so-called “Path to Citizenship” would exclude an estimated ½ of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The“Path to Citizenship” provided in this bill is unreasonably long. It will take a decade and a half for millions of people to become citizens. The bill constructs barriers along the way that are divorced from the realities of our communities and will ensure that millions of immigrants will never permanently adjust their status. We are particularly concerned about the requirements (1) that immigrants maintain continuous employment, (2) that they earn yearly incomes above the Federal Poverty Line, (3) that they pay punitive fines, (4) that immigrants will be excluded from federally funded, public health programs, and (5) that the ability for immigrants to become legal permanent residents will be tied to enforcement goals. These provisions fail to recognize the contributions and role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy, which keeps immigrants in precarious forms of employment and living below the poverty line in order to profit from their cheap labor. The fact is that undocumented immigrants pay an average of $11.2 billion in taxes annually, without receiving any federal benefits. The bill’s provisions will exclude millions of immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades and having grown older will find it difficult to comply with the requirement of continuous employment. The mandatory usage of the E-Verify program will create more precarious forms of employment as millions of immigrants who do not qualify for RPI status will be forced to take ever more dangerous and exploitative jobs in order to survive.
- The Senate bill criminalizes immigrants and expands the deportation and detention industries. Under the Senate bill, more resources will be devoted to prosecuting immigrants caught trying to re-enter or who are already in the United States after previously being deported. These immigrants are overwhelmingly those with family and community ties who are attempting to reunite with children, spouses, and other loved ones. Prosecutions for re-entry make up the largest number of cases in the already strained federal courts. Once prosecuted, these immigrants enter the U.S. prison system that incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, to serve out their sentences. The bill will also maintain the inhuman detention system that offers lucrative federal government contracts to private prison companies. Immigrants who cannot meet the strict requirements laid out by the “path to citizenship” will fill these beds, enriching investors in private prisons.
- The Senate bill leads to a more militarized border, more deaths, and more money wasted. The Corker-Hoeven Amendment, added to gain Republican support for the bill, confirmed that the bill is mainly an enforcement bill. It requires that the US Border Patrol double in size from 20,000 to 40,000 agents. The Border Patrol will deploy Blackhawk attack helicopters, drones (the same drones used by the US government for targeted assassinations), and other forms of electronic surveillance along the border. It also requires that the National Guard construct 700 miles of border fencing along the US-Mexico border. The financial cost of this amendment will rise to over $40 billion, but the human costs will be far greater. Deaths at the border increased 27% just in 2012 even in a time when the rate of migration across the border are decreasing. Under this new bill, border communities, which are sustained by cross-border familial, tribal, economic, and social ties will be divided by a military presence more extreme than the walls of the Soviet Iron Curtain. Migrants trying to cross the border to reunite with their families will be driven to take ever more dangerous measures, and many more will perish in painful manners.
In sum, we cannot support this bill knowing that it will result in a pathway to citizenship that is both unreasonable and untenable, more deaths, more deportations, and more penalties for immigrants searching for a better life. Although the bill does contain certain positive provisions such as increasing protections for detained immigrants and increasing judicial oversight, we feel that the negative aspects outweigh any positive factors that this bill offers.
We believe in human rights for all, the right to work, the right to mobility across continents, family unity, and an end to the current inhumane detention and deportation systems that have incarcerated and deported over 1.6 million people in the last four years. Any change to immigration policy that can be accurately labeled as reform must include: 1) an end to all deportations; 2) a swift and just pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, including those currently and previously incarcerated and those with previous deportation orders; 3) closure of all privately operated immigrant prisons; 4) options for the unification of families; 5) access to services that will help immigrants to lead healthy lives.
We will not settle for a bill that disguises enforcement behind a label of immigration “reform.” This anti-immigrant bill is far from the best we can get. As we expect that the House of Representatives intends to focus first on enforcement and border security, the bad aspects of Comprehensive Immigration Reform will only get worse. Here is our message to the Senate and the House: Go back and do your job. Recognize that millions of us, undocumented and documented alike, expect legislation that respects the dignity of our communities.