Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Response to the REPAIR Proposal by Chuck Schumer

I feel strongly that this legislation is a bad proposal. I also realize that it's trying to play to the various political stances so that it has a chance of passing by appearing tough on "illegal immigration". I don't think the proponents of comprehensive immigration reform should support this bill based on social justice criteria. It is too narrowly focused and short-sighted. Schumer really isn't in favor of humane reform.

1. Border security
Personally, I think that allocating funds for increased border control that restrict the movement of labor is misguided. NAFTA is a free trade agreement and we should have a matching free labor agreement and instead funnel our limited resources to combating drug smuggling, human trafficking, and arms dealing which would also mean dealing with the demand for these things that Americans create. Militarizing the border sends a message of aggression to the rest of the world, threatens the physical safety of American citizens who may be mistaken for unauthorized border crossers, may have a detrimental effect on wildlife in border regions, and may injure otherwise law-abiding people who would be unable to access or navigate bureaucratic procedures for entry of the U.S.

  Internal security
Anyhow, I think that the requirement of fingerprinting of foreign nationals does little increase the security of the U.S., especially given that some of the most egregious terrorist acts perpetuated within US borders has been committed by US citizens. Therefore, all American citizens, resident aliens, and visitors must be fingerprinted and checked by authorities for criminal ties and records. Of course this would be impossible to pass politically, so instead we should think of a less invasive, more effective way to protect the U.S.by funding law enforcement and first responders' such as police, firefighters, and EMTs rather than immigration enforcement.

2. Deportation & Detention
Any legislation that does not also guarantee the right of detained people to legal representation within reasonable proximity to their normal residence should be considered a bad proposal. Whether people are here with visas and green cards or completely without status, the current practices of moving detainees to places far from family, legal representatives, and other supportive community while in the custody of what amounts to the prison system is unjust and inhumane. The law should also grant the same right to speedy resolution for immigrants that it does for accused criminals.

3. Employment
Since most immigration is fueled by the economic needs of people, encouraging economic growth in socially responsible ways would be a more effective way to end competition for highly skilled and unskilled jobs by American labor and foreign workers. The U.S. should partner with local businesses abroad to create jobs that would improve the quality of life globally and in the US businesses and government should fund more education to produce quality high-tech workers in the US., including doctors and nurses. The employment and labor situation does not exist in an immigration vacuum and the push and pull factors cannot be mitigated by immigration enforcement.

4. Family reunification
The other major reason for migration according to the Migration Policy Institute is family reunification. Current definitions of immediate family reflect a nuclear family bias which does not even acknowledge step-children, let alone same-sex partners, extended family, and biological family of adoptees. For this reason, I think family reunification visas should be scrapped in favor of a system which would allow American citizens and permanent residents to petition for anyone for a certain amount of individuals, rather than an arbitrary list of people who the US government designates as "family".

5. Current unauthorized immigrants already in the U.S.
This legislation does not really spell out what the process or fines would be. I don't think I can form an opinion without know that. There should be provisions for low-income immigrants in regard to any proposed fines and fees. The language of this law also implies that immigrants without authorization do not currently pay taxes. This language should be revised to reflect the reality that immigrants do already pay taxes and should be credited for it. It should also reflect provisions that would fund English classes since people who wish to stay in the country have English language skills. What does that mean, exactly? What are "basic citizenship skills"? I think that the definition of these "skills" has to be more clearly defined.

6. Commission on Wartime Treatment of European Americans, Irish, and Australians
This clear favoritism and bias for presumably Caucasian, English speaking people is unjust and reminds of the worst laws of the past which blatantly discriminated against Asians and other non-white/non-European immigrants in the past. Although it will be effectively inconsequential, including this language and continued favoritism because of political pandering, is an insult to the majority of people who seek to immigrate to the US since we mostly come from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa.

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