Thursday, June 28, 2007
This is NOT the end of immigration reform. Its a sad day for the country, for immigrants, for US workers, and for immigrants’ sending communities. However, to be perfectly frank, the Senate Grand Bargain was a horrible proposal and many elected officials who truly support immigration reform, like Congressman Xavier Bacerra and Senator Robert Menendez honestly told us and others that there was very little chance of improving the bill in the House.
Just so that you remember what went down to defeat: Over 300 miles of new border walls (more deaths), 20 new detention centers able to hold 25,000 new immigrants per day, massive new criminal penalties (5 years in prison for illegal reentry after deportation, which the vast majority of immigrants have done; 10 years in prison for “immigration fraud” such as using your cousin’s green card to find work, something tons of immigrants do), substantially increased worksite and community raids, local police involvement in immigration enforcement, no fix for the 1996 “bars” that prevent hundreds of thousands or millions of immigrants with US citizen and lawful resident family members through whom they could traditionally immigrate (pre-1996) from doing so all because they had some minor violation of the immigration laws, a massive new guest worker program with NO path to lawful permanent resident status, a new immigration “point” system that effectively wiped out family-based immigration and replaced it with one that would reduce Latino lawful immigration by about 75% (points based on type of work, education, etc.), etc etc. In return for all of these totally regressive proposals, undocumented immigrants were offered a “non-immigrant” status (Z visas), forced labor or forfeit your visa, no family unification, no confidentiality (so, get denied, get deported), no effective judicial review of arbitrary denials, and no guaranteed path to lawful permanent resident status because Z visa holders were required to apply in 8 years under the new “point” system. In summary, a terrible legalization in return for a package of terrible enforcement measures.
Many groups came to the difficult decision to oppose the Senate bill. Others made the equally difficult decision to support it. Nobody liked it.
For a plan B, check out the Unity Blueprint at http://www.unityblueprint.org
Its time for advocates to promote a positive bill, rather than react to terrible proposals made by elected officials pandering to corporations tat want guest workers and the Lou Dobbs crowd. Its time to begin a social movement in favor of real immigration reform, organized in the field, not by beltway groups. Its gotta come from the bottom up. Its time to organize to get Lou Dobbs off CNN. Its time to call for reform that looks at the root causes of undocumented migration and how to address those causes through sustainable economic development in sending communities and revisiting agreements like NAFTA. Its time to push for increased visas to meet the real demand. Its time to push for the Dream Act, AgJobs, protection of families, increased labor rights for US and immigrant workers, etc., possibly in smaller proposals introduced in the House. Its time to fight the raids through litigation, Congressional hearings, etc.
It took us from 1980 to 1986 to get the IRCA passed with a real legalization program. It didn’t happen in one or two years.
Finally, remember that even if a positive immigration reform law is enacted in 2009, with a reasonably prompt path to legalization, undocumented immigrants could easily get lawful permanent resident status and citizenship much sooner than if the Senate proposal was enacted into law today.
Don’t mourn – organize.