Monday, November 19, 2012

The Hispanic Institute Statement on Senators Schumer and Graham Immigration Bill

Last weekend, we learned that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had resumed work on a comprehensive immigration bill which they tabled two years ago. Both Senators took to the Sunday talk shows to promote a four-point plan to fix the nation's broken immigration system and offer the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in America a path to citizenship.

Both Senators insist that nothing will take place until the country's southern border is secure. This point seems already to have been settled. The Obama Administration deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants during the President's first term. Moreover, improving economic conditions in Mexico and other Latin American countries slowed migration such that Douglas Massey, the co-director of Princeton University's Mexican Migration Project, told the New York Times in July 2011 that, "for the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative." Senator Graham's suggestion that "you do nothing until you secure the border" offers opponents of reform an avenue for further delay, because it implies that this goal remains out of reach. In fact, this target was met well before the Senators got back to work.

We are also not persuaded by proposed language tests. Senator Graham's statement to Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer that "[the undocumented] can't stay unless they learn our language" rests upon a myth. The United States does not have an official language and has never required any other immigrant group to learn English as a condition of citizenship. Why are undocumented Latinos being singled out? If knowing two languages is a condition of citizenship, then every other citizen should meet this requirement.

Going after employers who hire the undocumented is both nonsensical and sinister. Is destroying commerce the economic plan for the future of this nation? Is taking a family's income and life chances an American value? This economy can ill afford to lose one business or job, and here are political leaders trying to tear down businesses and tear apart families.

The issue of biometric testing, which Senator Graham floated as the method for verifying immigrant identity, is most troubling. The citizens of this country have never made a decision to violate the privacy of our people. What types of physical data would the government gather from immigrants to stock its database? What other possible uses could and would this data have? The potential for mass intrusion on personal privacy is real and should alarm every American.

We want to end the limbo so many immigrant families endure. We nonetheless believe that the bill in its current form is unacceptable. Immigrants already pay billions of dollars in taxes. They already provide a sizable percentage of the American labor force and the overwhelming majority already live "at the back of the line," where both Senators demand that they go. All they desire to is to do so openly and with some dignity. The present version of this immigration bill does not provide it. 

For more information or to schedule an interview with Gus West, please contact XiNomara Velazquez Yehuda at (202) 544-8284 or

About The Hispanic Institute

The Hispanic Institute is a 501 (c)(3) designated nonprofit organization that provides an effective education forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America. The Hispanic Institute manages a number of projects including, studies of Hispanic economic contributions, media monitoring, consumer fraud and citizenship education. For more information, please visit


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