March 24, 2006
Principles of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
- Meaningful Reform. Meaningful immigration reform must protect our security, allow our economy to grow, protect the wages of U.S. workers, honor our value of rewarding hard work, and respect the tradition of the United States as a dynamic country of immigrants.
- McCain-Kennedy’s Comprehensive Reform. Illegal immigration is at an all time-high. The number of undocumented in the U.S. has ballooned to roughly 12 million as of March 2006. The McCain-Kennedy Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act provides for meaningful, comprehensive reform through measures to increase border security, crack down on businesses that hire undocumented workers, and provide a path for immigrants to move out of the shadows and earn citizenship.
Earned Citizenship vs. Guest Worker Programs and Amnesty
- Bush’s “Guest Worker Only” Approach Amounts to Indentured Servitude. Many conservatives, including President Bush, support a limited, temporary “guest worker” program. Bush’s approach, which allows undocumented workers to continue to work in the U.S. for six year — but offers them no labor protections or the chance to earn citizenship — amounts to a 21st century form of indentured servitude. This proposal would institutionalize a permanent underclass in which millions of “guest workers” are paid substantially lower wages than U.S. workers.
- “Earned Citizenship” Honors Hard Work, Our Immigrant Tradition. McCain-Kennedy’s Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act includes a responsible plan to help undocumented workers earn citizenship. Undocumented individuals seeking earned citizenship would have to apply for a six-year temporary status, have a job, pay taxes, obey the law, learn English, and pay a $2,000 penalty for having come here illegally. This is a rigorous but fair process which honors the American value of rewarding hard work and our tradition as a dynamic country of immigrants.
- No Amnesty, No Cutting in Line. We cannot reward those who have broken the law with amnesty, nor can we allow the undocumented to “cut in front of the more than 3 million ‘green card’ applicants who have obeyed the law.”
Tough, Competent Enforcement
- Crackdown on Border Security and Corporate Abettors. Increased border security is an essential part of reform. We also have to crack down on the corporate abettors that routinely and knowingly hire undocumented workers. The Bush administration has a dismal record on employer enforcement. In 2004, the administration issued only three notices of intent to fine employers (PDF) for hiring undocumented workers, a drop from 417 in 1999, according to a Government Accountability Report. As long as employers are willing to hire undocumented workers, people will find a way to come here illegally. We need tougher penalties and tougher enforcement.
- Mass Deportation is Unrealistic. In testimony before the Senate, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff took deportation off the table saying that it would be “hugely, hugely difficult to do” and cost “billions and billions and billions of dollars.” The Center for American Progress released a report last summer which estimated that it would cost $41.2 billion annually for five years to deport the undocumented population. That is more than the entire DHS budget.
- Protect our Security; Bring the Undocumented Out of the Shadows. Keeping these individuals in the shadows poses a potential threat to our security. We do not know who is here or who is trying to enter the country. Bringing the undocumented out of the shadows and subjecting them to a background check as part of the path to citizenship will enable law enforcement to focus on terrorists and criminals.
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Immigration Debate Heats Up
March 29 , 2006
President George Bush is heading to Cancun today to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox at a time when the immigration debate is heating up at home. His visit comes against a backdrop of protests over the weekend and yesterday where an estimated one million people rallied against the immigration bills being proposed by House Republicans and President Bush. That sentiment is echoed in a new poll released yesterday by New America Media and co-sponsored by American Progress and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. President Bush should pay attention to what happened this weekend — people are certainly paying attention to what is happening in D.C.
- The immigrant community in the U.S. is alarmed by the tone of the immigration debate. As evidenced by the spontaneous rallies across the country, legal immigrants are disturbed by the tone of the debate in D.C. The poll shows that majorities of legal immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe feel that “the anti-immigrant sentiment is growing in the United States” and that it is affecting their daily lives.
- The immigrant community is not impressed with the actions of those in Congress. The major political “actors” in the immigration debate receive relatively low ratings from legal immigrants on what they have done so far on immigration. That result is not surprising — with the exception of the Senate Judiciary action on Monday (the poll was conducted prior to this action), what’s come out of Congress on immigration has not been encouraging. Bills, including the one Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) is set to introduce today, are more about criminalizing people than truly addressing the problem.
- Immigrants, like the majority of Americans, support comprehensive immigration reform. When asked about various ways to address immigration, the top three proposals were components of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. Legal immigrants also overwhelmingly support McCain-Kennedy when asked to compare it to President Bush’s proposal and to House-passed legislation. And judging from the rallies over the past few days, the U.S. immigrant population is not going to sit on the sidelines during this debate.
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