Senate Nears Vote on Flawed Immigration Bill

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'Border Surge' Amendment -- Escalation of Bad and Dangerous Policy

We are alarmed by the punitive, flawed and dangerous path that has been deepened in Senate Bill S. 744 in order to secure Republican support. The final vote may come tomorrow. The inclusion of the Corker-Hoeven "border surge" amendment, added in a deal catering to anti-immigrant diehards in the Senate and likely fueling billions to contracts with Halliburton and other corporate interests, would undeniably cement the militarization of the US-Mexico border.

Some key elements of the costly amendment:

  • doubles the number of Border Patrol agents to almost 40,000 over the next 10 years, adding an additional $30 billion for this purpose
  • adds 700 milies of pedestrian fencing along the US-Mexico border ($8 billion)
  • would deploy 160 unmanned aircraft systems ($140 million for Blackhawk helicopters for the Border Patrol's Air and Marine divisions)
  • would set up a program to recruit former armed services personnel to serve in the Border Patrol and in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In all, the amendment increases initial funding to some $46.3 billion dollars for border enforcement.This is a massive public investment in greater surveillance and data collection and data mining that goes well beyond the border.  The amendment touches on other elements of the bill as well: removal proceedings would be expedited against at least 90% of visa overstays. It would also prevent immigrants from accessing the Social Security credits they have already paid into the system.

This, on top of so many other problems (more criminalization of immigrants, E-verify, shift from family immigration, guestworkers, etc.) with this whopping piece of legislation. (Read this analysis of the legalization provision by Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, to get a better sense of some of the flaws--and how it could have been improved.)

We have all understood that a "comprehensive" bill would be layered with tough enforcement proposals and attempts to waterdown and undermine legalization and family-based immigration. Dozens of advocacy organizations, NNIRR included, signed onto 10 Principles for Ensuring Fair and Humane Immigration Policy earlier this year in which we united against such a "trade-off" for legalization and other positive reforms. We sent an Open Letter, signed by over 700 groups and individuals, to Senate Judiciary Committee members when the immigration bill was being considered there. There have been many efforts to "improve" the bill and push back against even more horrific proposals.

This is just wrong

No amount of appeals to understand that "this is the best bill possible under these conditions" and "11 million people will get legalization" (not that high a number and long years in a 'provisional' status) can ease the anxieties about this proposal. Certainly we understand that this proposal--if it is eventually signed into law in some form--may present the only relief from deportation that some in our communities will have for some time. But we cannot, or should not, attempt to "balance" the good and bad here to rationalize support: our communities' genuine need for policy reforms, especially legalization, has been manipulated into a deal for more dangerous, inhumane policies. The bill is deeply flawed, undermines rights, and deepens misguided and misdirected policies. And as we suspected, our border communities would bear the brunt of the trade-off. While the House side of the equation has not yet been fully revealed--from what we have seen so far, we can expect that the House-Senate conference process will likely pull the final bill further to the right.

Who's really happy? Military contractors, Silicon Valley and enforcement construction companies, who all lobbied heavily for more enforcement, must be cheering at the billions of dollars that could be headed their way.

Our communities--we all--deserve better. We deserve fairness and justice. Regardless of the outcome of the Senate vote, or eventual passage of the immigration bill, we have a lot of work ahead to ensure the safety, well-being and security of immigrant communities.

 

Please continue to stand up for fairness and justice!

 

Stop the detentions, stop the deportations!

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