Friday, January 22, 2010

Worse than nothing: New bipartisan proposal blocks immigration reform

Taking a "tough on illegal immigration" stance appeal to elected officials who are eager to please constituents. But simplistic solutions to complex problems are almost always wrong.

Yesterday Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) along with several Republican and Democratic Congressmen introduced an immigration-related resolution. Its non-binding statement will attempt to put representatives of both parties on-the-record in support--not only of securing the borders --but also of these two propositions:

* All employers must check every prospective employee they hire against a federal government database called "E-Verify" to ascertain that the person can work legally in the U.S.
* No one now in the United States illegally can attain legal status.

Those may sound like reasonable propositions to many who are concerned about illegal immigration, but they are both quite problematic, each in its own way.

E-Verify, deeply flawed

The government database E-Verify does not effectively prevent immigrants here illegally from working, but too often it stops legal immigrants and U.S. citizens from getting employment because the database on which it rests is so inaccurate. Moreover, prohibiting people currently here illegally, regardless of what restitution or process they are willing to do to make amends, ties Congress's hands. It guarantees we'll continue to have a millions of immigrants here illegally for the foreseeable future and beyond. Keeping people illegal inhibits economic growth and jobs while playing into the hands of terrorists and international criminals.

A fact sheet on E-Verify from the National Immigration Law Center succinctly outlines its difficulties. Reliance on E-Verify will booby trap the U.S. economy, do little to rectify the situation of unauthorized workers in the U.S. workforce, and further erode the privacy of our workforce and citizenry.

Outlawing legalization
Banning legal status for immigrants here illegally appeals to those who are against "amnesty." However, its underlying premise is that Congress either

1) supports a policy of mass deportation or

2) tolerates a vast underground of undocumented workers in this country that will continue on into the unforeseeable future.

Let's take a closer look at these two choices.

1) Mass deportation: It is generally estimated that there are 12 million undocumented persons present illegally in the United States. Forcibly removing a population equivalent to the state of Pennsylvania involves hearings, detention, and transportation costs with the U.S. taxpayer footing the bill. At the same time mass deportation eliminates 12,000,000 consumers (and many tax-paying immigrants) from an economy that is already weak. The cost to deport just 10 million immigrants in 2005 would have been approximately $41 billion dollars, reported the Washington Post. The cost of deporting 12 million now will be significantly higher.

2) Maintain the status quo: Barring a mass deportation, Congress must then tolerate the presence of 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants in the U.S., thereby pushing their contributions off the books and their presence farther underground. Do we want to allow an underground economy and a black market of smuggling, false documents, and unknown identities? Does that contribute to the safety of our citizenry and our republic? Outlawing a legalization process for people who are here already and would like to be in the U.S. legally means we are living with immigrants among us who have never passed a criminal background check.

Benefits of legalizing immigrants

Legalization of those now present illegally offers several advantages worth mentioning here. It would

* benefit the U.S. economy, adding $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product and government tax rolls over ten years.
* force immigrants to register, pass a criminal background check (weeding out serious criminals), and pay fines and taxes to get their documents.
* promote fair wages and employer respect for U.S. labor laws for all workers, eliminating hiring under-the-table or off-the-books.
* align our laws with the will of the American people: 63% of whom favor a pathway to legalization according to a poll by the Pew Research Center (May 2009).

Unfortunately what Chaffetz's bipartisan group offers is not bold leadership tackling complex social and political realities and addressing the challenges we face as a nation. Their proposal is not even legislature; it is merely a non-binding resolution. It's an attempt to circumvent a vital discussion of immigration reform before it has even begun. And that makes it worse than nothing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Arpaio's America IS NOT Our America

Organizations and activists plan to march on Phoenix, AZ on January 16 to definitively announce: Arpaio's America is not our America!

Puente Movement organizers say this marks "a new phase" in the struggle for justice and dignity in Maricopa County, Arizona and in other communities suffering severe civil rights abuses due to the failure of United States immigration policy.

From the group, Puente:
"The nation has watched with disbelief as Sheriff Joe Arpaio has carried out a systematic reign of terror disguised in the name of immigration enforcement, but directed against all communities of color in his jurisdiction. 
In the process, he has become a symbol of abuse, bigotry, and intolerance. The Obama Administration's recent endorsement of Sheriff Arpaio - through the renewal of his 287(g) authority and its expansion of local immigration enforcement initiatives proven to cause racial profiling - is an affront to this nation's struggles for equality and justice.

Not since the days of Bull Connor has this country seen a public official abuse his authority in order to terrorize and intimidate communities based on the color of their skin. The hatred and extremism that Sheriff Arpaio breeds is felt from Phoenix to Washington DC. It is an extremism that, left unchallenged, threatens to disrupt communities, destroy lives, and undermine bedrock constitutional protections for us all.

The group lists six specific demands:

· A termination of Sheriff Arpaio's 287(g) contract, which grants him federal immigration law enforcement authority.

· An end to the controversial 287(g) program, the so called " Secure Communities" initiative, and others like them that spread racial profiling and civil rights abuses across the nation.

· An end to criminalization of migrants and communities of color in the name of immigration enforcement.

· An end to family separation.

· The passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that provides legal status and political equality to undocumented immigrants.

· A restoration of constitutional rights to all people.

Dolores Huerta and other civil rights and labor leaders will attend the event, as well as artists like Zac de La Rocha and Linda Rondstat. Organizers invite members of the public who are unable to attend the march to endorse the event: Click here to endorse the march

Currently, in other parts of the nation, immigrants and their supporters are conducting an indefinite fast that centers in Florida and has participants across the country. College students are marching over one thousand miles to Washington DC. in a walk designed to draw attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Clergy and community activists have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience in New York to free Jean Montrevil, an immigrant rights leader. These actions share a common goal: immigrant rights groups are moving hard and fast to pressure Napolitano and DHS to respect the rights of immigrants and people of color, and stop destroying communities and separating families with immigration raids, detention and deportations.