Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bush's proposal fails to repair a broken immigration system
by Helene Slessarev-JamirSojoMail 12-07-2005

Last week President Bush made several long-awaited policy statements on immigration, calling for stepped-up border security and a new guest worker program that would require people who are already in the U.S. to return to their home countries in order to apply. If accepted they would receive temporary visas allowing them to work in the U.S. for a maximum of six years. These proposals may satisfy elements of the president's electoral constituency, but they fall woefully short of the comprehensive overhaul of the country's immigration laws that is sorely needed.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were roughly 31.1 million foreign-born residents living in the U.S., making up 11.1% of the population. The vast majority come from poor countries in the global South - roughly 80% are from Latin America, Asia, or Africa - where jobs remain scarce and salaries are very low compared to those in the U.S. For many families in Mexico and Central America, immigration has become a basic survival strategy, with one or two members risking their lives to cross an increasingly treacherous border in order to work low-paying service jobs and send money home. Most immigrants would prefer to stay home if work were available in their home countries.

Certainly there is a need to strengthen the integrity of this country's border, so that all entrants arrive with documents. However, tightening border security - without at the same time creating viable means by which people can come legally - will not work. At the moment the number of visas allotted to countries in the Western Hemisphere is woefully low, so that the only option is to cross without papers.

It is also unrealistic to think that the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already in the U.S. - according to a 2005 Pew Hispanic Center report - will return to their home countries to apply for guest worker visas that will only allow them to remain in the U.S. for three to six years. Many are already well-established in the U.S. with jobs and families. They have children who were born here as U.S. citizens. Real immigration reform must include an avenue for those who are already in this country to regularize their status.

A guest worker program will satisfy the labor needs of U.S. employers who have come to depend on low-paid immigrant workers. However, most guest worker programs tie the worker to a specific employer, essentially creating a captive workforce, without basic worker protections. Organized labor has argued against a guest worker program because it will drag down the wages and benefits of native - born workers.

Immigrant activists and advocates are calling for some form of comprehensive immigration reform. Most are supporting the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, (SB1033/HR 2330) a bipartisan bill introduced in May by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The bill recognizes that enforcement alone will not work. Therefore it creates a pathway to citizenship for those who are now here without documents. Yet it is not a simple amnesty program. Applicants for a new temporary visa would be required to pay penalties, including back taxes for all the years they have been working in the U.S.

The bill would allow them to remain in the U.S. with their families, change jobs, and go home for visits. At the same time, it would increase border security, while working with the nations in Latin America to increase economic development there. Immigrants who are already in the U.S. would have to wait at least six years before they could apply for permanent residency, provided that they work and have no criminal record. In the meantime, the U.S. would clear out the vast backlog of visa applications that have been filed by U.S. citizens on behalf of family members living overseas. Because visa quotas are set so low for certain countries, including the Philippines, India, and Mexico, the wait to bring family can now be as long as 20 years.

A second bill, known as the Dream Act and recently reintroduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), would open up an avenue to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Although these children have often lived in the U.S. most of their lives and attended schools here, they cannot now legally work. They are also ineligible for any federally funded educational scholarships, and most states charge them higher out-of-state tuition to attend public college or university. As a result, these children effectively face a dead end when they graduate high school, which many believe has contributed to their low high school completion rates. This bill would encourage states to allow these children to pay in-state tuition while opening up the possibility of gaining permanent residency for those who came before their 16th birthday, have completed high school, and have shown good moral character.

Helene Slessarev-Jamir, member of the Sojourners board of directors and director of urban studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, is a second-generation American whose parents came to the U.S. in the 1950s.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Check out this letter written by my friend Abraham in Arizona

When you read this you may wonder why a student whodoes not attend the University of Arizona is writing aletter to the editor! Well, I never thought I wouldhave to write this but yesterday I was baffled when Iread Kara Karlson’s article “A day without anAmerican.”

First I would like to point out that no “teenage,pimply American kid” would mow her lawn for let’s say…$4 and hour, which sounds about right for what an illegal worker would get paid. Or tell me, would youpick tomatoes in the fields for 7 cents a bucket oftomatoes that you pick? The article also mentions Mexico and Latin America but I never read about countries like Ghana, Bosnia,or Indonesia. It is true that most of the immigrants that come either legally or illegally come from Mexico and Latin America but there are also people, not one or two but even thousands who come other countries illegally too! It is not fair that you write onlyabout Latinos. What about Canadians and Europeans? They come to work“illegally” in this country too. But maybe they are looked upon differently because their countries have stronger economies and because of the color of their skin.

Ms. Karlson should have done a little bit more research on immigration and naturalization laws before writing the article. It is a little less difficult fora parent to become a U.S. citizen if his or her child“claims” or applies for the parent to become a citizenonce the child is 18 years of age. However, this only happens in very special cases and the process takes along time. Another thing she mentioned is that the“new citizen” can then bring people over from his orher country of origin and they would then become citizens too which is true but rarely happens because it is very difficult. It takes up to 10 years for a person to become a citizen under those circumstances. There is mention of illegal immigrants collecting benefits from the government. It is true that they can receive government aid for children who are citizens but the total amount of help received by immigrants is by far less than the amount “illegals” pay on taxes. Oh they do pay taxes in case you did not know! Theamount received by the U.S. economy from undocumented workers is about $100 billion and the costs of illegalimmigration amounts to $3 billion. Of that $100 billion, $7 billion goes into Social Security alone, which will not be claimed by the people who earned it.

I know that there are drug dealers and criminals crossing the border but there are also people trying to survive. People who would rather play their last card by crossing a deceiving desert than to see their children die. And I believe that if you were in the same situation, you would do the same. And about seeing “A day without Americans”, I honestlybelieve that the possible outcome mentioned in the article would be absolutely the same as if Mexicanswere missing. Sadly enough, immigrants need jobs and employers as much as the employers need all the cheap labor that will bring money to the economy for theU.S. to go around doing “good deeds”.

J. A. Suastez PCC Student

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Invisible Victims of Katrina

Commentary, María Elena Salinas, Sep 22, 2005

There are thousands of them. They worked in restaurants, washing dishes. They cooked, baby-sat and mowed lawns. They helped build houses and cleaned casinos. They lived in homes, paid taxes, contributed to the economy. Millions of people have benefited from their work, yet no one acknowledges their existence...

Read the entire article at the following link:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Check out this commentary by Chuck Colson.

A 'No Truth' Zone: Borders, Immigration, and Worldview
August 16, 2005

There's an issue that refuses to go away even though many politicians wish it would. Since it engenders great passion on both sides of the political divide both parties view it as a "no-win" issue: For every one potential voter you please, you're likely to alienate another one.While many Americans oppose what is happening, most have come to rely upon it and probably wouldn't want to live in a society where it's eliminated altogether. The issue I'm referring to is illegal immigration.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The majority of these come from Mexico and Central America. Contrary to the stereotype, however, they are not all farm workers or domestics. Nearly one-third of them own their own homes, and many have U.S.-born children. In other words, they have roots in this country. Many of them provide cheap labor, which we all benefit from.But none of this changes the fact that they are here in violation of U.S. law. Nor should their success make us feel better about our porous borders.

Illegal immigration and the borders that make it possible is the subject of two competing proposals in the U.S. Senate. One bill would require illegal immigrants to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, pay a fine, and be deported back to their home countries. Once there, they would be eligible to apply for a "guest-worker" program. A competing proposal would also offer illegal immigrants entry into a "guest-worker" program. But this proposal would also grant them legal residency and the possibility of citizenship. Some think goes too far.As hard as this issue is for our leaders, it's even harder for Christians. We're commanded to be good citizens who are committed to the welfare of the city in which God has placed us to live. The porous borders that have enabled 11 million people to settle in this country illegally raise obviously dangerous security concerns. Those same borders allowing people to seek a better life for their families allow terrorists to come in to destroy us. We need to tighten border security. And we must oppose blatant disregard for the law. If immigration laws are too restrictive, the answer is to amend them, not ignore them. But along with these concerns, we also need to recall God's command to welcome the foreigner and sojourner in our midst.

The Scriptures tells us that hospitality toward the aliens in its midst is the hallmark of a good society. In fact, extending the hand of friendship toward those who are different from them is a way the people of God distinguish themselves from their unbelieving neighbors. While this kind of hospitality doesn't require that Christians advocate open borders, it does require us to be salt and light in the debate over immigration reform. At the very least, we should work to elevate the level of discourse and prevent the demonizing of the "other" in our midst. And we ought to remind our fellow citizens who are so angry about immigration that it is our desire for cheap labor that has contributed to the problem. It's bad enough that illegal immigration is a "no-win" issue; it should not be a "no-truth" issue, as well.

And in the end, we must, as Christians, treat everyone in our midst with godly compassion. Get links to further information on today's topic, simply visit and click on Today's Commentary.

Copyright (c) 2005 Prison Fellowship

Sunday, July 31, 2005

This really looks like the answer to our current immigration problems!

Now is the time to pray and work on behalf of the millions of undocumented men, women, and children that are in our country without much hope for the kind of future you and I desire for our own families.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Immigration Reform’s “Elephant In The Room”: 11 Million People In The Shadows, What Will Work To Bring Them Forward?
July 27, 2003

A hearing on comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday tackled head-on the thorny issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Either they leave and return to the U.S. through some type of new temporary worker program after which they must return home or they stay and work while getting in line to gain eventual legal permanent residency.

The bills discussed in yesterday’s hearing mirror these ideas. The bipartisan Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 (S. 1033/H.R. 2330), introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) and Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), requires undocumented immigrants to come forward, pay a fine, and permits them to stay in the U.S. and apply for a worker visa. If they choose to, they may eventually apply for legal permanent status.

The Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Act of 2005 (S. 1438), introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), calls for undocumented immigrants to leave the U.S. Once outside the U.S., they may apply for a guest worker program which would require them to eventually return home. Senators Cornyn and Kyl emphasized that participants may apply for permanent status “through the normal channels.” However, they failed to address the virtual absence of legal channels for people seeking residency.

Which of these approaches would really work on the ground?

According to former Representative Hal Daub (R-NE), President and CEO of the American Health Care Association & National Center For Assisted Living, who testified at the hearing, “work and return” would not be ideal for the health care industry. “[We] find it illogical that an administrator must send his or her most senior, qualified aide home after just two or three years simply because they were born in a foreign country.” According to a press release from conservative activist Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, the Cornyn/Kyl approach won’t work.

“That provision is highly impractical, would never happen in the real world, and would encourage undocumented workers to avoid, not comply with, the new law. Can you imagine the prospect of 11 million hardworking laborers having to go across a border just to sign a piece of paper, only to return to their current jobs? That’s just the kind of bureaucratic run-around people leave their home countries to avoid.”
Fellow conservative Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute, said in her
testimony yesterday:

“An effective temporary worker program will have to be large enough to provide the workers we need to keep our economy growing and flexible enough to accommodate a variety of immigrants, including those who ultimately chose to settle in the United States. Of the two proposals on the table, only the McCain-Kennedy bill meets the second requirement, and it is the only one that seems likely to work realistically to meet our future labor needs.”

And an editorial in today’s Tucson Citizen has more:
“The McCain proposal is likely to be far more successful in enticing people to come forward. Faced with the requirement that they leave the country, as the Kyl bill does, and the economic hardship that would impose, those here illegally would have little incentive to participate.” (Tucson Citizen, Editorial, Immigration still is low on Bush's agenda, July 27, 2005.)

Finally, what does the Latino community think? In January 2004, right after President Bush issued his principles for immigration reform, a national poll conducted by Bendixen & Associates for New California Media/Pacific News Service found that when asked to choose between an earned legalization policy and the President’s temporary legal status proposal (which is similar to the Cornyn/Kyl formula), 75% of Latinos polled favored the proposal for earned legalization while 16% preferred the President’s temporary worker program.

Will Congress advance authentic reform that may actually work? Or will they pass laws so skewed by political calculations that the result will be little if any improvement over the status quo – further eroding American’s trust in our immigration system? Let’s hope Congress chooses to do the former.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Leviticus 19:33-34

33 " 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.