Monday, March 15, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

We have a busy week ahead of us here in Washington! In this post, you'll find some updates from last week and - more importantly - previews of this week's events! Grab your coffee cup and let's get started.

Last Thursday, President Obama met with Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), who are working together to draft a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate. This high-profile meeting was met with cautious enthusiasm by immigration advocates, who are pressing Schumer and Graham to release a blueprint of their bill before the much-anticipated immigration rally this Sunday.

Following the meeting, President Obama issued this statement: "Today I met with Senators Schumer and Graham and was pleased to learn of their progress in forging a proposal to fix our broken immigration system. I look forward to reviewing their promising framework, and every American should applaud their efforts to reach across party lines and find commonsense answers to one of our most vexing problems. I also heard from a diverse group of grassroots leaders from around the country about the growing coalition that is working to build momentum for this critical issue. I am optimistic that their efforts will contribute to a favorable climate for moving forward. I told both the Senators and the community leaders that my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort."

Senator Schumer remains "optimistic" about advancing immigration reform while Senator Graham sees difficulties in hyperpartisanship. Schumer and Graham are on the search for a second Republican cosponsor of the bill, and they continue to seek a compromise between business and labor leaders about the future of worker visas. We encourage these senators to put pen to paper and share their plan for immigration reform publicly in the near future.

We have learned that Schumer and Graham's proposal for immigration reform may include a biometric national identification card. All U.S. citizens and green card holders would be required to carry this card, as would immigrants with other statuses. This is a concerning development that would raise all sorts of privacy and profiling concerns. We hope that clarification on this proposal comes swiftly.

A final vote on the health care bill is expected by the end of this week, but what's in it for immigrants? Immigrants' access to health care remains a hotly contested issue in the House. In the current version of the bill, undocumented immigrants cannot obtain health insurance even if they are willing to buy an individual plan with their own money. Advocates are hard at work trying to improve access and lift the 5-year bar for Medicaid, in which legal immigrants have to wait five years before they are eligible for the Medicaid program. It is unreasonable to expect anyone, regardless of their legal status, to wait 5 years for health care.

Immigration enforcement hit close to home this week. On Thursday morning, several simultaneous raids in Maryland resulted in 29 people being taken into custody by federal immigration agents. ICE claims that the raids are intended “to ensure that employers are held accountable for maintaining a legal work force.” However, raids, even when conducted in a humane manner, unfairly punish employees while letting employers off the hook.

So, what's in store for us this week?

It's not too late to register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Christians from across the country will gather in D.C. this weekend to discuss immigration reform, refugees, and displaced peoples. Join us for workshops, discussions, and advocacy training, as well as a day of lobbying on Monday, March 22nd!

The Reform Immigration For America campaign, in coordination with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, is organizing a huge immigration rally on March 21st! Over 100,000 people are expected to gather to witness the urgent need for immigration reform. We hope you can join us on the National Mall on Sunday afternoon!!


  1. The one problem I have with posts like this is that they treat legal and illegal immigrants as the same. They are not.

    That said, I believe that we need immigration reform, but it does not need to include carte blanche amnesty. There should be a track to citizenship, but it should be offered or not on a case by case basis. The real reform needs to include both tighter borders and a simplified track to citizenship.

  2. Let me add that I agree completely about the raids. If the employers get slapped on the wrist, they will continue to hire illegals, making the problem worse. The problem is not just porous borders or overly tough immigration requirements, it is a culture that encourages hiring illegals over either citizens or legal immigrants. As long as it's cheaper to hire an illegal and pay the fines, this will continue.

  3. Geradin, thank you for your comments. I'd like to share a few thoughts.

    - No person is "illegal." Undocumented immigrants often come to the United States without papers because there is no way for them to immigrate legally. If we fix the broken immigration system, then we can create workable legal channels for people to immigrate in a safe, regulated, and humane way.

    - A track to citizenship would be on a case-by-case basis. Each individual applicant would have to go through a background check, pay back taxes or a moderate fine, and fulfill other requirements before receiving legal status.

    - The AFL-CIO has made strong statements against raids. Stopping the raids and fixing the broken system would improve working conditions for everyone. Employers would no longer have incentives to hire undocumented workers for cheaper pay; instead, they would be required to pay fair wages for everyone. Both native-born and immigrant workers would benefit from a functional immigration system.