Thursday, May 17, 2007

The reviews are coming in on immigration compromise

It's early yet, and a lot of the details of the compromise crafted between the Bush Administration and Senate leaders are not known, but if today's announcement can be viewed as the opening act in the Great Immigration Compromise Show ….the early reviews are in, and they're far from glowing.

As of right now it's the guestworker program and the switch from family based green cards to a "merit system" that are drawing the most opposition. For some they may in fact turn out to be deal-breakers.

Without any path to legalization, no guestworker program will be easily accepted.

There was already a split between those who opposed guest workers under any circumstance and those willing to accept them because at least they offered a means for future un-skilled immigrants to enter the country and eventually earn a path to legalization....without that path, it's questionable if anyone will accept them. The proposed plan really looks to be just a new a Braceros program, and even those who were willing to make massive compromises won't accept that.

Without modification, there is a great chance that this legislation would end up to be just another IIRIRA amnesty with no provisions made for future un-skilled immigration.

This is the exact reason that those like La Raza who were originally willing to compromise on guest workers in the first place have changed their tune...because they didn't want a IIRIRA repeat.

The other sticking point is the switch from family based immigration preferences to a merit system based on education, skills and linguistic ability. This shift is obviously an attempt to change the demographic make-up of future immigration.

One of the biggest complaints about the old system was that the employment based green card quotas allowed for only 5000 unskilled workers a year. This made it nearly impossible for un-skilled workers to enter legally... But at least there was family unification for those lucky enough to have family ties here, so there was some limited option for the un-skilled workers that make up the bulk of immigration from Mexico and Central America.

Removing family unification and switching to a system that favors those with "advanced degrees and sophisticated skills", as the Republicans pushed for, would essentially cut off almost all the legal immigration from those areas...just like Pat Buchanan wanted in the first place.

But enough of my take on this ….on to the reviews:


Washington, DC –The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., today acknowledged the hard work of a bipartisan team of senators for their role in crafting a compromise immigration bill which will proceed to the Senate floor this week.

“Successful immigration reform cannot happen unless it includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who are living, working, and contributing to their communities in the United States. This proposal contains this crucial element, and this debate is the first step,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “The debate on this vital issue will finally begin in the United States Senate. Latinos, and all Americans, are eager for Congress to act on immigration reform, and we are glad to be at the starting gate.”

However, NCLR expressed concern with some of the provisions included in the Senate bill. These include dramatically changing the legal immigration system by eliminating visa categories which allow U.S. citizens to petition for their families; a point system which would for the first time in nearly a century make visas available to anyone in the world based on educational attainment and English-language ability; and a proposed new temporary worker program.

“For a temporary worker program to function and to serve the interests of this country, workers must have an avenue for putting down roots and earning their way to U.S. citizenship over time,” said Murguía.

“While we have serious reservations about some elements of this bill, we will engage in vigorous efforts to improve it,” added Murguía. “We are deeply committed to moving legislation forward and seeing this process through to the House and ultimately to the President’s desk. We salute the senators who have taken the first step and look forward to engaging in the debate to its conclusion.”.





“SEIU is encouraged that Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement and brought a comprehensive, bipartisan bill into the light of day. This is progress, but it is just a starting point. There is much work needed to get successful legislation across the finish line.

As it stands, the bill has the potential to improve our nation’s security by helping 12 million undocumented immigrants come out from the shadows and get on a path to citizenship. It also makes positive commitments to ending the notorious visa backlog that has kept families apart for as long as 15 years.

However, the package will require significant improvements before it becomes the real comprehensive, long-term immigration fix that the American public is waiting for. In order to end illegal immigration as we know it, restore order, unite families, and protect worker’s rights, we urge Senators to pay particular attention to the following defects.

“Temporary is temporary” is a recipe for more illegal immigration and is out of line with U.S. values. All workers know that temporary workers depress wages and create a second class workforce that is disconnected from the U.S. mainstream and not equal. SEIU will not endorse a repeat of failed guest worker programs that chip away at long-established labor protections, drive down wages for all American workers, and add more chaos to our broken immigration system. Senators must fix this provision so that future immigrant workers will be able to get on a path to citizenship, and have the right to improve their wages and working conditions.

• Touchback provisions that require immigrants to return to their home countries as a requirement to achieve legal status may dissuade many from coming out from the shadows and will create more chaos at the border and in our U.S. Consulates abroad.

•Replacing the family-based sponsorship program with a point system to determine who can come to this country has the potential to become a disastrous social experiment. Establishing a class of workers who lack family and community roots will seriously undermine efforts to integrate new immigrants into the American way of life. Any point system that would deny entry to the workers our economy most depends upon is unworkable, and will fail to address the root causes of our current, broken system.

SEIU is committed to working with Congress to fix these and other critical issues so that we can fix our broken immigration system once and for all. As this debate moves forward in the Senate and House, we urge lawmakers not to compromise on our nation’s values of opportunity, family, and fairness.


AILA Urges Support of Comprehensive Reform, but Not At Expense of Fundamental Principles

A group of Democratic and Republican Senators announced today that their backroom negotiations over immigration reform have produced a "grand bargain." The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has emphatically supported the need to fix our broken immigration system by balancing the needs of families, employers, our economy, and our national security to make legality the norm in our country. Unfortunately, it appears that desperate times may have resulted in a cobbling of compromises, which is no grand bargain to the thousands of employers and families who will lose a voice in a hazily outlined process. AILA cannot support such a bargain.

AILA looks forward to being able to review the proposal in detail to be able to try to ascertain its true short and long term impact. In general, AILA would be opposed to a system that: (1) eliminates four out of five family-based green card categories; (2) replaces our current employment-based immigration system with a radical, untested "merit-based" point system that basically eliminates consideration of employers' needs while at the same time eliminating labor market protections for U.S. workers; (3) fails to recalibrate current green card levels to meet the demands of our economy at both ends of the skill spectrum; and (4) bars most temporary workers from any path to permanent residence.

Any final bargain containing these four unacceptable elements would reorient our immigration system from one grounded in familial and employment relationships to one disconnected from direct ties to the U.S. and the U.S. economy. No longer would U.S. citizens be permitted to sponsor their adult children for permanent residence and no longer would employers be permitted to sponsor immigrants for actual jobs that need to be filled. Combined with the creation of a large, churning pool of "guest workers" who cannot lay down roots in the U.S., this point system raises the specter of a new tide of immigrants lacking the infrastructure and opportunity to effectively assimilate into this country.

"This is nothing short of high-risk, large-scale social experimentation. By untethering the system from its moorings to employer and family relationships, we threaten to dissolve the social fabric that binds immigrant communities," announced Carlina Tapia-Ruano, President of AILA. "Moreover, by restricting the ability of new 'guest workers' to bring their families with them or transition to permanent status, we are creating a dynamic that will generate the next group of illegal residents."

In highlighting these concerns, it would be irresponsible to lightly dismiss the historic gains notched on the positive side of this bargain: (1) an opportunity for 12 million, hard-working undocumented people in this country to earn permanent residence; (2) significant reductions in the hopelessly backlogged family categories (albeit with some arbitrary limitations built in); (3) the DREAM Act; and (4) AgJOBS. These are enormously important policy objectives, ones that AILA has pursued aggressively for many years. AILA agrees that any reasoned and rational compromise would include such provisions. But the cost of fixing the serious problems created by our broken system should not be the creation of a totally new immigration process cutting families and business out of the process and the imposition of unworkable provisions that will potentially lead to even bigger social and economic problems in the future.

AILA cannot support any final bill that contains these dangerous, untested, and economically destabilizing features. We hope that as debate proceeds on a compromise, Congress will heed the will of the American people and reform our system in a way that embraces the immigration principles upon which this country has flourished for more than two centuries. AILA will work diligently to engage Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle to vigorously address the concerns set forth above and to pass real and workable comprehensive immigration reform this year.


Senate Deal Launches Immigration Reform Process Towards Getting a Bill Enacted This Year

Bill a Good Start, with Room for Improvement

We are pleased that the process is moving forward. The clock is ticking on whether we are going to get a bill signed by the President this year, but now we have a starting point. Failure to act guarantees more national frustration and divisiveness, deteriorating confidence that our leaders can lead, more deportations that divide families, more immigrants dying in the desert because there is no way to come legally, and greater danger that our borders and visa system will be exploited by criminals and terrorists.


The earned legalization program for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already here presents a realistic opportunity for them to gain legal status and make restitution. They will be able to work legally, will be protected against deportation, be able to rent apartments, change jobs, get driver's licenses and know that their family members here will see them at the end of the work day.


So the package is generous for those who are already here and those who have waited patiently to come legally. How the deal treats immigrant families and workers coming in the future is where the biggest problems lie.

At issue is whether the United States maintains our commitment to families and equality or tilts too far towards elitism through a "merit-based" points system. For four hundred years, we have welcomed some of the most ambitious and energetic people in the world to this continent regardless of income or education. For more than 40 years we have welcomed immigrants who have existing ties to the United States through employment or family connections. The radical changes to who gets to come legally to America in the future and under what conditions present perhaps the most troubling aspects of the Senate proposal. It is up to our elected leaders to call out those who feel this way and squash this miscalculated and misguided feeling.

While reuniting families on the one hand, the proposed bill cuts family immigration categories in the future. Any points system must account for family ties sufficiently or we will have departed severely from tradition and our commitment to sustaining strong families. The Senate and House must commit themselves to improve this aspect of the bill.

For workers coming in the future it falls short of a workable solution because it fails to provide a realistic path to permanency. We will know who the workers are, they will come with visas not smugglers, and they will have better labor protections than they have now working in the black market. However, without fixing the path to permanency, we will create conditions that will lead to a rapidly increasing pool of undocumented immigrants in the future or creating a pool of second class non-citizens, defeating the goals of this reform

If the new points system is constructed correctly so that people with ties to the U.S. have an advantage and people from humble origins don't have a disadvantage, there is a good chance that it could be implemented in a way that is consistent with American values.

National Immigration Forum


Statement of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement:

"The immigration deal struck by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House responds to the demands of the immigrant rights movement for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers now in the U.S., but its provisions on future migration to the United States are immoral, unworkable and unacceptable. While the proposal appears to include an important path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, recognizing their work and contribution to America, we find the elimination of the family immigration system, the creation of a new temporary worker program that would create a permanent underclass of workers with few rights and no ability to become citizens, and the limitations on due process to be anti-family, anti-worker and fundamentally un-American.

"As one of the largest grassroots coalitions of immigrant rights and community organizations in the country, the Fair Immigrant Rights Movement (FIRM) believes the following principles must guide legislative consideration of this and other proposals: simple and broad legalization for undocumented workers and families; strong worker protections and a path to citizenship for future immigrant workers; family reunification by maintaining the current family preference categories; preservation of due process and civil rights; and fair treatment of students and agricultural workers as embodied in the DREAM Act and AgJobs legislation. We will be continuing to pressure Congress to adopt humane immigration legislation that is consistent with these principles, and we are prepared to vigorously oppose legislation that is inconsistent with our values.

"We are deeply troubled by two reported aspects of the deal as we understand it.

"First, the architecture of the deal includes appalling provisions driven by Republican Senators that would fundamentally undo the family immigration system created in the 1965 immigration bill; opening the doors to millions of working class people and people of color. This proposal would replace that system with a "rich man's immigration system" that would shift immigrant preference to high-skilled, English speaking people, and deny American citizens and immigrants the opportunity to bring loved family members into this nation. This is a violation of a fundamental, longstanding principle of American immigration policy, and of real family values. We hope that Senators recognize that many of them would not be in this country under the immigration system proposed in the deal.

"Second, the deal would not allow for a path to citizenship for future 'guestworkers' thereby creating a two tier labor market that could undermine worker protections for all Americans. Such an approach would recreate problems of the disastrous bracero program, depress wages and working conditions for U.S. workers, and would be fundamentally inconsistent with American values of fair play and equal treatment.

"If these provisions are not fixed, this Congress will repeat the mistakes of past immigrant legislation that has created today's humanitarian crisis with unconscionable family backlogs, thousands dying at the borders and U.S. citizen children been torn apart from their parents. FIRM will stand strongly behind its principles for reform and will oppose any legislation that fundamentally undermines them.

"These family and worker provisions must be fixed in any final comprehensive immigration reform bill. FIRM will fight to make these improvements. The immigrant rights movement, like the congressional immigration debate, is only just getting started."



Statement by AFL-CIO John J. Sweeney on New Immigration Deal

Unfortunately, the immigration deal announced today does not address the roots of the immigration crisis. And it abandons long-standing U.S. policy favoring the reunification of families and protecting workers by limiting the size and the scope of guestworker programs – which frequently amount to virtual servitude, where workers’ fates are tied to their employers and their workplace rights are impossible to exercise. The proposal unveiled today includes a massive guestworker program that would allow employers to import hundreds of thousands temporary workers every year to perform permanent jobs throughout the economy.

Without a real path to legalization, the program will exclude millions of workers and thus ensure that America will have two classes of workers, only one of which can exercise workplace rights. As long as this two-tiered system exists, all workers will suffer because employers will have available a ready pool of labor they can exploit to drive down wages, benefits, health and safety protections and other workplace standards.

We intend to work with our allies in Congress and in the immigrant community to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will protect all workers in a humane and just manner


1 comment:

kyledeb said...

Thanks for the eagle eyes Duke and the very good preliminary analysis. It was helpful for me.

I want to throw in a perspective from outside the U.S. One of the problems with migration is that it drains the intelligent and hard-working people from States of Emigration. While I do not doubt that a guest-worker program without a path to citizenship could create another bracero program, I wonder if forcing people back will be helpful for nations like Mexico and Guatemala. Just a thought.