May 22, 2010

Principles for Immigration Reform

I'm interning for an organization that supports immigration reform, and in general I feel like it's probably a good idea, so I was surprised when someone asked me my views on immigration today and I found myself largely at a loss. My ideas on the topic are all pretty vague, so asked for my specific solution to the problem I found I really couldn't give a solid answer.

So, naturally, I turned to Google, and found my vague sentiments reflected... some equally vague, some offering specific, smart-sounding solutions to problems I'd only been marginally aware of.

First, Representative Gutierrez's proposed principles for reform legislation. This is the bill my organization is supporting:

* Include a rational and humane approach to the undocumented population;
* Protect U.S. and immigrant workers;
* Allocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels;
* Enhance our nation's security and safety;
* Establish a strategic border enforcement policy that reflects American values;
* Keep American families together;
* Promote immigrant integration;
* Include the DREAM Act and AgJOBS; and
* Protect fundamental rights for all.

Sounds nice, right? In a murky sort of way. Daily Kos had a much more comprehensive set of suggestions, with a few that really stuck out to me:

5. Provide a path to legalization for all current undocumented immigrants living and working in the US, free of restrictions based on country of origin, economic status, education, length of residency, or any other “merit based” criteria.

8. Opposition to a "temporary guest worker" program on the grounds that it provides no benefit to the American people or the immigrants themselves. It only provides big business with a disposable work force, and prevents immigrants from becoming a viable force in the workplace or full fledged members of society.

15. Simplify the immigration system by eliminating and condensing the hundreds of various visa classes into a smaller, more manageable, classification system that allows for not only easier navigation of the system, but better analysis of current immigration needs.

17. Bring U.S. immigration law in line with international human rights law by reforming asylum and refugee law and strengthening protections for children, crime victims, and victims of human trafficking

18. Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.

The Daily Kos article also explains things like the DREAM Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the AgJOBS Act, all of which are things I can get behind. They had a few I wanted clarification on, though...

2. Address the root causes of immigration, and change US policy so that it doesn't foster and produce conditions that force hundreds of thousands of people each year to leave their countries of origin in order to simply survive.

3. Tie all current and future trade, military, and foreign aid agreements to not only worker protections both here and abroad, but also to their ability to foster economic progress and social justice for the working class and poor in sender nations.

Both sound like they'd good things, but I don't really understand what they would mean in terms of policy... Other than non-exploitative contracts (business, military, whatever), which I should hope (probably overly optimistically) that we do already. Ideas on that one, anyone?

This was the one that most stuck out to me, though: The idea that I think should be at the heart of any discussion about immigration.

25. Recognize that immigration is a vital part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant America. It is what has set this nation apart from all others since its inspection. To close our borders to new immigrants is to cut off the lifeblood that has always made this nation grow and prosper.

I'm not really a big fan of American exceptionalism - in fact, I think it's a dumb idea - but I do think immigration is a huge part of our identity as a country, and the fact that it's turned into a racist, violent mess is really sad and needs to be addressed.

So... That's as close as I currently get to a position on immigration reform. I'll have to look into any legislation coming up, and hopefully start to learn a lot more about what's going on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm big on immigrant health care reform. Right now, if an illegal immigrant shows up in a hospital (ANY hospital in the country), once that hospital has verified their identity as an illegal immigrant, they can cut off whatever treatment they're receiving and throw them out. This includes women giving birth, people in the process of suturing bones, and worse.