Draft Recommended Strategic Program For National Immigration Reform
This draft proposal follows the structure of a resolution on comprehensive immigration reform adopted at the 2006 National Convention of the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC). That resolution was not divided into two phases as suggested below. The positions recommended below also appear to be consistent with the positions of community-based organizations throughout the country concerned with immigration reform, including labor, religious, inter-faith, legal service, social service, and organizing groups, as well as local and regional coalitions of these groups.
Draft and support immediate legislation to restore INA 245i so that tens of thousands of immigrants with an existing avenue to adjust their status through family members or jobs approved by the Department of Labor (for which no U.S. workers are available) may adjust their status rather than remaining here in illegal status. Consider imposing "community service" as an alternative to heavy "fines" for lower-income eligible applicants.
In order to maximize the number of immigrants who become citizens and will be eligible to vote in the important 2008 elections, develop and draft legislative and administrative proposals for rapid and massive reductions in the long delays now experienced in completing naturalization cases. Seek to significantly reduce inefficiency in and delays caused by security checks.
Support a substantial increase in funding for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service ("CIS") and U.S. Consulates and modifications of administrative policy to effect a massive reduction in all backlogged immigration-related applications with the goal that no application or petition for immigration benefits filed by eligible applicants would take more than one year to adjudicate. Seek to significantly reduce inefficiency in and delays caused by security checks.
Draft legislation and support immediate adjustment of status for several hundreds of thousands of Central American refugees who many years ago came to the United States, many fleeing political and economic conditions encouraged by the United States, and applied for legal status under several programs including asylum, NACARA, ABC, and TPS. The goal should be to immediately end the twilight zone temporary status these immigrants have endured for up to thirty (30) years.
Draft legislation and support immediate modification of administrative policies to restore the ability of the federal courts-severely restricted by Congressional amendments enacted in 1996-- to review and correct unlawful decisions by the Department of Homeland Security's immigration bureaus regarding immigrants both in the form of national policies or decisions in individual cases.
Draft legislation to repeal the 3- and 10-year bars which each year block tens of thousands of immigrants with existing avenues to legalize their status through family members or jobs approved by the Department of Labor (for which no U.S. workers are available) from obtaining adjustment of status because they resided in the U.S. without valid visas for more than 6 months (3-year bar) or 12 months (10-year bar).
Review and offer improvements to and support the prompt enactment of the Ag-JOBs bill.
Support prompt passage of and draft suggested improvements to the DREAM Act so that defined undocumented students may legalize their status rather than remain here in undocumented status.
Consider supporting and drafting legislation for the creation of a Select Commission on Immigration Policy to investigate issues relating to and recommend proposals for long-term comprehensive immigration reform (several of the issues that need intense study are identified below).
PHASE 2 - LEGISLATIVE GOALS FOR LONG-TERM COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM THAT MAY BENEFIT FROM IN-DEPTH STUDIES (INCLUDING SUBSTANTIAL CONSULTATION WITH MIGRATION EXPERTS) BEFORE BEING FINALIZED:
Investigate and support the development of programs that encourage and support economic development in identifiable major sending communities as a major tool in reducing future undocumented migration.
Support and develop a revised visa program that far more realistically tracks the actual demand for visas based upon the demands for labor in the U.S., family reunification, and persecution and torture. This may well involve repealing the unsuccessful per country quotas and returning to a visa issuance system (pre-Eilberg law) that has a rational relationship to the realities of the demand for labor in the U.S., family reunification, and flight from persecution.
In order to fully protect U.S. workers and reduce to the maximum extent possible the unlawful exploitation of immigrant workers, investigate and support revisions to U.S. laws so that documented and undocumented immigrants have full and complete access to protective labor and health and safety laws.
As a matter of human and civil rights, and to avoid erroneous deprivations of rights, develop laws that do not permit the indefinite detention of immigrants except in circumstances involving the national security or safety of the community, support the right of apprehended immigrants who are not a flight or national security risk to release on reasonable bail, fair removal hearings, and the right to pursue administrative appeals without waiving grants of voluntary departure.
Support and draft legislation to repeal existing provisions that harshly impact on vulnerable immigrants including asylum seekers, unaccompanied juveniles, victims of violent crimes and trafficking, and survivors of domestic violence, and support legislation to improve reasonable protections offered to such migrants in light of their uniquely vulnerable status.
Reconsider and possibly repeal or amend provisions in the REAL ID Act that promote local police involvement in immigration law enforcement (for the most part against the recommendation of local law enforcement agencies), and impose on the States restrictions concerning who may or may not receive drivers licenses.
Within the context of a comprehensive reform package, the recommended structure of border enforcement may change substantially. Support and develop amendments to existing laws to reduce militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, reduce deaths along the border, and promote humane and rational border enforcement involving detection, arrests, and removal rather than thousands of deaths, assaults, and related violence now endemic along the U.S.-Mexico border, destruction of eco-systems, and routine violations of the rights of U.S. residents and citizens.
A realistic visa allocation system may dramatically reduce the need for a legalization program. Nevertheless, a legalization program should be a component of immigration reform to avoid the build-up of a large undocumented population.
Development of a truly comprehensive immigration reform will require far more study and knowledge than either advocates or the Congress seem to currently possess. Among other fundamental issues that must be understood before any rational policy can be formulated, are the following -
Those interested in assisting in the drafting specific legislative proposals along the lines recommended above, please send email to email@example.com
Peter Schey is President & Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation. The Foundation serves as a resource to social, legal, religious, and community-based groups throughout the United States and in other countries involved in civil and human rights advocacy.
The CHRCL operates several projects including the Voces Unidas Project (www.vocesunidas.org) that currently represents 300 immigrant domestic survivors in four states (CA, AZ, TX, and IL). We hope to expand the project nationwide in 2006. Please feel free to email CHRCL Executive Director, Peter A. Schey, with any questions regarding the lawsuit or the services provided by the Voces Unidas Project: firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.