22 March 2010

Immigration Reform "Blueprint" a Worrisome Sign

Leading up to yesterday's march for immigration reform in Washington, DC, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lyndsey Graham (R-SC) released a "blueprint" for immigration-reform legislation. The draft was immediately embraced by President Obama, but includes disturbing elements that would further threaten immigrants' rights.

This weekend, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a Ms. Foundation grantee partner, issued this response:
As a "starting point" for real congressional engagement, [the blueprint] sets a low bar for the debate, placing harsh and failed enforcement strategies at its heart in hopes of drawing conservative support, regardless of the human rights consequences of such policies.

While still vague and without many details, the blueprint emphasizes increases in worksite and border enforcement as an apparent trade off for a "tough but fair" legalization program. It promises green cards for the "best and the brightest" -- more of the "brain drain" scenario -- and refers to so-called "circular migration" as a rationale to provide temporary worker visas to lower-skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. These workers would presumably save their earnings, send remittances home, and then return to their home countries. This is a recipe for disaster, and merely sets up the prospect of more exploited migrant workers with fewer rights, including workers with little access to green cards and who could eventually become undocumented.
After what just happened with health care reform, where initial proposals that promised universal coverage, a public option, and respect for women's rights were whittled down by compromise and threat, is this where the Administration wants to start the discussion about immigration reform? If so, we should be worried.

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