The U.S. Senate today voted to resume debate on the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act (S. 1348). After considering a series of amendments, the Senate could take final action on the bill on Friday.
Take five minutes now to phone your two Senators and ask them to support:
- Provisions that protect family unity. No family-based visa application should be tossed out merely because of the current large backlog. Rather, those applications should be processed expeditiously. Any “point system” for awarding visas should complement rather than replace family-based visas, so U.S. citizens and permanent residents can be joined by family members as is currently immigration law.
- A safe and fair worker program. Much undocumented immigration results from the shortage of adequate, appropriate avenues to live and work legally in the United States. The temporary worker program in S. 1348 is not the solution. Workers should not be forced to leave the United States every two years. They should be able to renew their visas and bring their families. Their employee rights must be protected fully.
- A purposeful, rather than punitive, earned legalization program. Applicants should not be forced to “touch back” in their home countries; many eligible immigrants would fear separation from their families and not participate, and U.S. embassies in many countries lack the capacity to implement the program as written. Also, fines should be reasonable, not overly punitive.
- Smart, targeted enforcement. Our national security should be enhanced through workplace enforcement, more accessible legal ports of entry and earned legalization, rather than policies that have failed in the past such as fences and the militarization of the border. Reforms should enable employers to verify applicants' immigration status and hold them accountable for hiring undocumented workers. Enforcement provisions should not serve as "triggers" that will delay other necessary reforms.
- A mandate that police ensure the safety of all, not serve as immigration officials. Urge Senators to resist amendments to S. 1348 that would mandate state and local police to serve as immigration officials – a specialty that demands proper training. Such amendments would discourage immigrants from reporting crime, leave them targeted by criminals, and divert police efforts from combating crime.
- Safeguards for asylum seekers. Penalties for using false documents would be increased under S.1348. However, many asylum seekers fleeing persecution resort to document fraud as the only way to leave their country. Under international law, most asylum seekers cannot be penalized for these acts if they admit to and turn in the documents within a certain timeframe. Senators should amend S.1348 to strengthen protections for asylum seekers against penalties for using false documents while attempting to flee persecution.
Update: This news today from the General Synod of the United Church of Christ on the same subject....
General Synod supports immigration reform
Written by W. Evan Golder
June 26, 2007
On the same day that the United States Senate voted to reconsider stalled immigration legislation, General Synod delegates voted with only a handful of nay votes to support a resolution advocating for a humane immigration policy. The resolution declared that "the Militarized Border Enforcement Strategy of the United States government has been ineffective and inhumane."
Although the resolution acknowledged the existence of other immigrant communities that deserve our support and prayers, its primary concern was with immigrants from Latin America. Since 1993, when the United States began its current blockade strategy of border enforcement, more than 3,000 men, women and children have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border.
The resolution presented to delegates was a combination of three resolutions on this issue, originally presented, respectfully, by the Central Atlantic, Illinois and Southern California Nevada Conferences.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Rodney Sutton, Sr., of First Grace UCC in Akron, Ohio, the approximately 150 delegates on the immigration resolution committee heard presentations on each resolution. Nancy Escue spoke for Central Atlantic, the Rev. Michael Mulberry for Illinois, and the Rev. Art Cribbs for Southern California Nevada.
Sutton then led the delegates through a two-session process from which the single resolution emerged.
Along with Sutton, the Rev. Laura Westby of First Congregational UCC in Danbury, Conn., helped present the resolution to Synod delegates.
"We're motivated by the 3,000 who have died," she said, "the need for resources for our people, and the need for collaboration with other groups concerned with this issue.
"We see this as an issue of faith," she said.
The resolution calls for local churches "to advocate for a policy that allows immigrant workers and their families to live and work in a safe, legal, orderly and humane manner through an Employment-Focused immigration program (as opposed to employer-focused) that guarantees basic international workers' rights to organization, collective bargaining, job portability, religious freedom, easy and safe travel between the United States and their homeland, achievable and verifiability paths to residency, and a basic right of mobility."
It also urges conference ministers and local churches to seek out opportunities for face-to-face dialogue with immigrant communities, and that they study the immigration issue with such films as "El Norte" and "Babel" and books such as "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Alberto Urrea.
It also called for all UCC settings to join others in advocating for justice and providing services for those in the undocumented community most in need, e.g., abandoned immigrant children, abused women, and families facing or involved in the deportation process.