Immigration Bill Released by Eight U.S. Senators Today-Faith Based and Peace and Justice Groups Reject It


File photo: Supporters of immigration reform assemble outside of Senator Michael Bennett’s office on March 26, 2013
photo: Tiburcia Vidal/The Nation Report

DENVER – Initial reaction to the release of a new immigration bill summary has not passed the test among those working on reforming the nation’s immigration system. Raising the hopes of millions of people nationwide who are affected by U.S. policies or who have been working for reform since the early part of the decade or longer say that now they have only to be thankful that dialogue has taken place.

In a statement released by the American Friends Service Committee’s Colorado Area Office the position is that the bill is “a far cry from the just and humane reforms that immigrant communities, faith, labor and advocacy groups have been calling for. Instead it reproduces, and even doubles down on, many of the current failed policies” according to Jordan Garcia, AFSC Colorado’s Immigrant Organizing Director.

One of those policies that groups continue to challenge is the issue of militarization of the border. The bill summary directs an increase in border militarization in the billions and the AFSC has said that additonal military translates to more border violence on the part of Border Patrol. This is confirmed by groups who work with migrants near the border as reported on April 10, 2013 by The Nation Report.

The Alliance for Global Justice is another one of those groups. Chuck Kaufman is Co-Coordinator for the peace and justice organization and is based in Tucson, “The approach to comprehensive immigration reform is all wrong. Instead of looking at it from a law enforcement/military/prison perspective, immigration reform needs to be built on a human rights foundation. The Senate bill will accomplish nothing except more lives lost in the desert, more families separated, and more profits for private prisons”.

The final language of the bill was not released as expected in a news conference today to allow for resources to be placed toward those affected by yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. The summary however, has been circulating as early as yesterday, “The Senate bill would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, or the militarization of the border that has devastated communities on both sides of the border,” said Garcia.

The proposal outlined by four Democrats and four Republicans shows the bill would force private sector employers to use the controversial and costly electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System. Estimates of the number of U.S. citizens being erroneously deported as a result of a faulty verification system have been in the thousands. The expansion of employment verification programs such as E-Verify and I-9 audits would put labor protections of all workers further at risk if this trend continues according to the AFSC.

“Both the White House and Congress continue seeking policies of continued border militarization, James Jordan, Co-Coordinator of the Alliance for Global Justice responded to the bill’s summary. “At the same time, the White House is busy negotiating what would be the largest Free Trade Agreement ever, including all three NAFTA countries–in fact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been called ‘NAFTA on steroids’. Here in Arizona, we understand full-well what Free Trade and border militarization means: deaths in the desert. There can be no just immigration reform that continues border militarization hand-in-hand with such neoliberal policies”.

Gabriela Flora is AFSC Colorado’s Project Voice Regional Organizer, “It is hard to see how this obstacle-strewn path, with its many onerous conditions, takes seriously the demands of immigrants for real reform. Clearly there will be many who continue to live in the shadows, subject to the cruelties of a broken system including exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers.” In addition to offering the points of the bill that the group opposses, AFSC offered the points that they expect an immigration bill to include: economic policies to reduce forced migration, labor rights for all workers, quick and clear paths to residency and citizenship, civil and human rights protections, demilitarization, service access, and as a top priority, the reunification of families.

Refufia Gaintan/The Nation Report

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