Monday, June 10, 2013

Just Say No to Gang of Eight Immigration Bill

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

Given the national debate over the so-called Senate “Gang of Eight’ immigration reform bill, I have one recommendation: go back to the drawing board. Introduced on April 17, 2013, by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as S. 77 or the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” this 844-page document represents a complex, costly, enforcement-centered and morally bankrupt bill.
For the sake of brevity, let’s take the case of the “path to citizenship” component. It makes no sense why undocumented immigrants should pay exorbitant costs, such as financial penalties, back taxes and application fees? Haven’t these immigrants suffered enough financial hardships with the epidemic wage-theft cases against America’s most vulnerable workforce? What about the case that immigrant workers too often work below the minimum wage, receiving no over-time, adequate lunch breaks and other basic work-place rights that most citizens enjoy?

Additionally, don’t employers and consumers benefit from these mostly low-wage workers when purchasing basic goods and services on a daily basis? What about all the taxes that immigrants already pay, both directly and indirectly, without benefiting from federal programs, such as government assistance, Social Security and Medicare?

Moreover, the border-enforcement first pre-requisite before anyone qualifies for citizenship illustrates the absurd aspect of this bill. Why do undocumented immigrants have to pay for something, such as border control, that’s out of their control? How will immigration officials accurately know that the established 90% apprehension success goal will ever be met? As a social scientist, for example, I can’t know 90% of anything unless I know the universe of the population that I’m studying.

This pre-requisite is designed for failure because there’s no guarantee that immigration officials or the proposed bi-partisan task force will ever agree that the border is 90% secure due to economic and/or political reasons. It’s also immoral because it only creates the illusion and false hope for millions of honest, hard-working immigrants—who contribute more than their fair share to this country—of one day becoming American citizens.

The proposed 13-year wait period for undocumented immigrants to be eligible for citizenship, for instance, only occurs (if at all) after a five-year period, when immigration officials will determine if the U.S.-Mexico border is found to be 90% secure. If not, the proposed bi-partisan task force will take control, study the issue and make recommendations. This bureaucratic process only creates unpredictable outcomes for the aspiring citizens.

In short, to borrow from former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s catchy phrase of the war on drugs policy during the 1980s, President Obama, Congress and the public should “Just Say No” to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill. In lieu of this flawed bill, we need a new immigration bill guided by humanistic principles with one central component: amnesty.

lvaro Huerta, Ph.D., a UCLA visiting scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center, is the author of the book, Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm, forthcoming from San Diego State University Press.]


Olga said...

Alvaro, thank you for this! Even as an educated Chicana I am confused by the bill & all that it implies, so your analysis was helpful. How horrible that despite everything immigrants have contributed to this country (and continue to so) they are treated with such disrespect and contempt. This "immigration reform" is a farce and a slap in the face of our community.

Nativo Lopez said...

And I thought I was the only one that thought this way about this S.744, President OBAMA'S version of comprehensive immigration reform. I haven't heard from or seen my friend Alvaro for too many years and I'm proud of his insightful comments. He has demonstrated that he has not put on blinders like so many other immigrant advocates who aspire for immigration reform, but settle for the lowest common denominator legislation. It is truly an enforcement/bracero-type indentured servitude passed off as something positive and progressive. Shame on us if we can't see it. Kudos for Alvaro's academic accomplishments.

Victoria M. Johnson said...

Thank you, Alvaro. I think this Bill adds more bureaucracy, penalties and confusion to those who are trying to become citizens. I agree with you, legislators need to go back to the drawing board.
Victoria M. Johnson--