Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gutierrez Outlines Core Principles for New Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Today, at a rally of thousands of people cheering for immigrants' rights, Representative Luis Gutierrez outlined the core principles of his new comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here at FCNL, we have been anxiously awaiting the introduction of these principles, and we are very excited that Rep. Gutierrez is taking the bold step of crafting a progressive bill that will advance the conversation on immigration reform.

So what are the principles for this progressive bill?

On a pathway to legalization for undocumented workers: Rep. Gutierrez says that immigrants should have the opportunity to earn citizenship by going through background checks, paying their fair share of taxes, and learning English. (At FCNL, we hope that this pathway will be reasonable and not hindered by overly punitive criteria.)

On border enforcement: Rep. Gutierrez says that we need professional and effective border enforcement, using strategies that strengthen security while staying true to our nation's values. He calls for real working partnerships between the federal government, border communities, and other stakeholders. (At FCNL, we hope that enforcement strategies under this plan will be aligned with humanitarian values. Border enforcement should not violate environmental laws, desecrate religious sites, or induce human or civil rights abuses.)

On interior enforcement: Rep. Gutierrez says that his plan will promote fair immigration proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees, and policies that respect the tenets of community policing. (At FCNL, we hope that due process will be accorded to all detainees and that detention standards will be codified.)

On protecting workers: Rep. Gutierrez says that the labor rights of workers must be expanded and that dishonest employers who exploit immigrants must be punished. (At FCNL, we hope that laws on wages, hours, health, and safety will be enforced; the ability to organized will be protected; and that all workers will have access to remedies to redress workplace grievances.)

On verification systems: Rep. Gutierrez says that the current employment eligibility verification system must be fixed, not only to protect people who are denied the right to work because of errors in the databases, but also to prevent employers from exploiting the system and undermining workers' rights. (At FCNL, we hope that there will be clear provisions protecting people who are denied the right to work due to system errors.)

On family unity: Rep. Gutierrez says that immigration reform must support strong, united families and treat all immigrant families fairly and equally. (At FCNL, we hope that this plan will be inclusive of LGBT families in order to end a long history of discrimination in the U.S. immigration system. We hope that family preference categories and per-country caps will be revised; that backlogs will be reduced; and bars to re-entry and ajustment of status will be removed.)

On future flows of workers: Rep. Gutierrez says that many guest worker programs undermine workers' rights. He says he will create an employment-based visa system that is fair to workers and employers, and he will create a commission to align visa numbers with labor market demands and economic needs. (At FCNL, we hope that this plan will expand the legal avenues for all workers, including low-skilled workers, to migrate to the United States. All immigrant workers should have their rights protected, including the ability to bring their family with them, to change their place of employment, and to apply for lawful permanent status and eventual citizenship.)

On AgJOBS: Rep. Gutierrez says that there must be an agreement between labor and agribusinesses that allows farm workers to access legal protections and immigration status while enabling employers to ensure a legal workforce and stabilize their businesses.

On DREAM Act: Rep. Gutierrez says that he will strengthen the DREAM Act to allow students who grew up in the United States to be fully integrated into U.S. society.

On immigrant integration: Rep. Gutierrez says that he will recommit federal resources to promoting and assisting immigrant integration. (At FCNL, we hope that these resources will be used to provide multi-lingual and civics education, outreach, and naturalization assistance.)

For the full text of Rep. Gutierrez's principles, click here.

To read the New York Times article on the rally and the principles, click here. To read the Latin American Herald Tribune article on the principles, click here.

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