New Immigration Bill Includes Support for Families and Workers, Yet Would Continue Key Failures of Current System

Path to Citizenship Must Reflect More Humane Principles

Following the formal release of immigration legislation today, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called the bill “a modest start,” noting provisions that address family unification and workers’ rights and create a narrow path to citizenship for some immigrants. But the Quaker groups said the bill also reproduces many of the current failed immigration policies, making it a far cry from the just and humane reforms that immigrant communities, faith, labor and advocacy groups have been calling for. 

“The Senate bill makes meaningful improvements for immigrants with temporary protected status, undocumented youth, and agricultural workers by providing a fast track to legal permanent residency.  However, it would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, or the militarization of the border that has devastated communities on both sides of the border,” said Maggie Fogarty of the organization’s New Hampshire Program.

Fogarty said the 844-page bill not only doubles down on some failed policies, it also elevates them to the status of mandatory measurable triggers, including universal E-Verify, a 90 percent border ‘security’ metric, and a new entry-exit port system.  “It would waste billions on drones, costly high-tech gadgetry, additional fencing, and personnel,” she said.

According to AFSC, the bill does offer greater accountability and oversight of border enforcement, a long-standing demand by immigrant communities and their allies.  It would establish a task force of border community stakeholders to evaluate and make recommendations regarding immigration policies along the border. 

“Since 2010, the Border Patrol has claimed the lives of 20 unarmed civilians, and no official has been held accountable for these deaths,” Fogarty said.  “Federal agents seemingly operate with impunity, systematically violating the human rights and civil liberties of border residents.”

The bill also includes the right of due process and worker protections under the mandatory E-Verify provision. However, E-Verify and other employment verification programs remain highly flawed, problematic and costly, according to AFSC.

“We are gratified to see that the bill does begin an important conversation about future flows of workers to the U.S., by identifying significant labor and wage standard protections and opportunities to apply for permanent status and supporting family unity,” said Fogarty.

The bill strives to keep families together by restructuring a fundamentally flawed system with long waiting periods into one that provides new opportunities for people to migrate lawfully.

Still, Fogarty said there may be many who continue to live in the shadows, subject to the cruelties of a broken system including exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers.

The AFSC implores Congress to adopt compassionate and effective immigration reforms that are grounded in the following principles:

•           Develop humane economic policies to reduce forced migration.

•           Protect the labor rights of all workers.

•           Develop a quick path to legal permanent residency and a clear path to citizenship.

•           Respect the civil and human rights of immigrants.

•           Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border.

•           Make family reunification a top priority.

•           Ensure that immigrants and refugees have access to services.

AFSC’s views are laid out in its publication, A New Path,  which outlines policy priorities for humane immigration reform that protects the human rights of all people.  Fogarty said the New Path principles are derived from nine decades of work with immigrant communities, “whose voices must be heard as we seek meaningful and humane policies.”

For more on AFSC’s immigrant rights work, visit http://afsc.org/project/immigrant-rights.