A project of the Center for Community Change

Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2010: Good for the Economy, Good for our Society, Good for our National Security

To start the year off right, we have another great post from our guest blogger Robert Gittelson:

As we closed out the year of 2009, my fellow CIR advocates and I closed it out with a bang here in Los Angeles. If  2009 can be classified as a year of hope, strategizing, and organization, I believe that 2010 will be classified as the year of action and accomplishment. Toward that end, we used these closing moments of 2009 to gear up for the January 23rd day of immigration reform events that we have organized for the Los Angeles community, and specifically the San Fernando Valley. However, we also utilized the opportunity that the attention around this event has presented to us, to speak out about the urgent need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and to point out the flaws in our opponent’s “status quo is good enough” strategy.

On December 27th, the Los Angeles Daily News ran a front page article about the January 23rd rally, march, and panel discussion of experts. It said, in part:

“With renewed debate over immigration reform expected in Congress next year, the San Fernando Valley could become a hotbed of activity as activists plan a massive rally and outreach efforts to draw attention to the cause.

Those supporters said their decision to bring the immigration reform issue into the heart of the Valley reflects a growing impatience with the pace of immigration change among immigrant advocates, labor and religious groups and a coalition of Democratic lawmakers.

“Our community, the greater community of the San Fernando Valley, has over a million immigrants all told,” said businessman and immigration activist Robert Gittelson. “It is truly, truly a tragedy that probably several hundred thousand of our neighbors and our friends and our co-workers here are undocumented.

“If you think of the United States as a melting pot, we’re at ground zero right here in the San Fernando Valley.”

Gittelson is among the Valley-based immigration reform advocates who last week announced they are organizing an unprecedented immigration rights rally late next month. They hope thousands of people will march from the Van Nuys Civic Center to Church on the Way on Sherman Way.

The Valley rally scheduled for Jan. 23, they said, will be in support of recently introduced legislation that would open a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants nationwide.

Reform advocates say extending the pro-reform movement to the Valley was also part of a strategy to boost their ranks and present a more diversified face in the national debate.

“This movement is not so dissimilar from the African-American civil rights movements of the ’60s and ’70s and even today,” said labor activist David Frelow of the Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition.

Invoking civil rights icons

“Let’s not forget those immigrants have helped build this great nation and those who will continue to make this a great nation.”

Frelow and others invoked the memories of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., saying they hope that next month’s immigration rally will take on the symbolism of right over might associated with historic marches led by Chavez and King.

“All of us have received some measure of grace from God, and we need to extend that grace of God to others,” said the Rev. James A. Tolle, senior pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys. “And what better group of people than to extend it to the immigrants that are here in the United States.

“We’re wanting to take the principles of Jesus Christ and apply them to our fellow human beings. We’re to love our neighbors as ourself.”

It is important to note that while the article was received by supporters of CIR with enthusiasm and optimism, it also exposed an unfortunate and vociferously agitated reaction from those that either oppose CIR on ideological grounds, or those that do that like or fear the changes that a societal melting pot stands for. There were almost 300 negative, sometimes threatening, or in many cases ugly replies posted on the newspaper’s web site.

Perhaps they were inspired by a quote in the article by one of the Congressmen whose district borders the San Fernando Valley, Elton Gallegly, a staunch opponent of CIR who sits on the House Immigration Sub-Committee:

“U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, said with unemployment at a 26-year high and many Americans losing their homes, his first responsibility is for the welfare of legal citizens and residents.

“Congress must concentrate on ensuring (that) every person with a legal right to work in the United States has the opportunity for a job and does not have to compete against illegal immigrants to provide for their families,” said Gallegly, whose office was the target of an interfaith rally calling for immigration reform earlier this month, in a written statement.”

I want to avail myself of this opportunity to ask some questions of this representative.

How is it possible that Congressman Elton Gallegly, whose district houses the Presidential Library of President Ronald Reagan, can get away with distorting or ignoring the principals of Ronald Reagan when it comes to championing immigration reform?

How can a Congressman with a 100% approval rating from the hate group F.A.I.R. for his anti-immigration stances throughout his Congressional career, get away with ignoring the economic benefits that his own Congressional Budget Office has pronounced would occur under Comprehensive Immigration Reform, especially during a time of economic crisis?

At a time when both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and virtually every labor organization in this country is demanding immigration reform, how can Congressmen like Elton Gallegly get away with obstructing the urgent changes that our nation requires to get Americans back to work, and to improve the economic standing of all workers through immigration reform?

How can a Congressman like Elton Gallegly, with probably some 100,000 or more undocumented residents in his district that he represents under the Constitution of the United States, ignore the pleas of his own district’s faith based organizations that are imploring him to show compassion to his own constituents?

How, at a time when the State of California faces an unprecedented budget shortfall, can one of its own Congressmen, Elton Gallegly, author the House Bill H.R. 140, which would withhold millions, if not billions of federal highway dollars from California, unless our state adhere to the anti-immigrant Real ID Amendment, especially since he knows that our state can’t possibly do that unless we also pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

This leads me to one of the most urgent topics that we addressed this week, in our most recent Press Conference here at the Los Angeles Immigration Building yesterday, 12/30/09. I addressed something that nobody is talking about, but should be. How is it possible to defend the status quo of our immigration policies, when terrorists that we know are on our terrorist watch lists can flaunt the system by obtaining 10 year, multiple entry visas that allow them to attempt to blow up our airplanes?

At the press conference, I explained that had we passed CIR in 2006, or 2007, the Nigerian terrorist would never had been able to get a visa from our State Dept. in the first place, and would therefore have never been able to set foot on the airplane. The Obama Administration is calling for a review of our policies in the wake of this near tragedy. He need look no further than CIR to find the solution.

Specifically, while I know that opponents of CIR have derided the recent House Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 as having 645 pages, implying that it would be just too much work to actually read the bill, I want to point out very clearly that first and foremost, it is a security bill, as its name implies.

In fact, one need read no further than the first page to figure that out for themselves, as it states, “TITLE I–BORDER SECURITY AND ENFORCEMENT”

However, the bill specifically addresses the exact situation that we found ourselves in on Christmas Day, when that terrorist from Nigeria that had been denied a visa from Great Britain, had paid in cash for his ticket and had no baggage, and whose father had warned us that his son had been “radicalized,” thus landing this terrorist on one of our watch lists, was able to board our plane with a 10 year, multi entry visa. I refer to the following section from the bill:

SEC. 143. REPORTS ON IMPROVING THE EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION ON NORTH AMERICAN SECURITY.

(b) Contents- Each report submitted under subsection (a) shall contain a description of the following:

(1) SECURITY CLEARANCES AND DOCUMENT INTEGRITY- The status of the development of common enrollment, security, technical, and biometric standards for the issuance, authentication, validation, and repudiation of secure documents, including–

(A) technical and biometric standards based on best practices and consistent with international standards for the issuance, authentication, validation, and repudiation of travel documents, including–

(ii) visas;

(3) VISA POLICY COORDINATION AND IMMIGRATION SECURITY- The progress made by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to enhance the security of North America by cooperating on visa policy and identifying best practices regarding immigration security, including the progress made–

(A) in enhancing consultation among officials who issue visas at the consulates or embassies of Canada, Mexico, or the United States throughout the world to share information, trends, and best practices on visa flows;

(B) in comparing the procedures and policies of Canada and the United States related to visitor visa processing, including–

(i) application process;

(ii) interview policy;

(iii) general screening procedures;

(iv) visa validity;

(v) quality control measures; and

(vi) access to appeal or review;

(D) in developing and implementing an immigration security strategy for North America that works toward the development of a common security perimeter by enhancing technical assistance for programs and systems to support advance automated reporting and risk targeting of international passengers;

(5) TERRORIST WATCH LISTS- The status of the capacity of the United States to combat terrorism through the coordination of counterterrorism efforts, including any progress made–

(A) in developing and implementing bilateral agreements between Canada and the United States and between Mexico and the United States to govern the sharing of terrorist watch list data and to comprehensively enumerate the uses of such data by the governments of each country;

(B) in establishing appropriate linkages among Canada, Mexico, and the United States Terrorist Screening Center;

(C) in exploring with foreign governments the establishment of a multilateral watch list mechanism that would facilitate direct coordination between the country that identifies an individual as an individual included on a watch list, and the country that owns such list, including procedures that satisfy the security concerns and are consistent with the privacy and other laws of each participating country; and

(D) in establishing transparent standards and processes that enable innocent individuals to remove their names from a watch list.

Finally, I want to mention that after our press conference, one of my fellow Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition advocates Juan Jose Gutierrez, appeared on the radio in a panel discussion with the notoriously anti-immigration and CIR obstructionist Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. The CIS is one of the sister groups, along with NumbersUSA, that have roots tying them inextricably to the hate group F.A.I.R., an ironic acronym for the disingenuously named Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

On the show, Krikorian was his usual outrageous self, calmly extorting the wonderful success of the current “Enforement Only” policy of the Obama Administration. Krikorian is the champion of the status quo. He likes to see enforcement only, because it fits nicely into his long held strategy of “Attrition Through Enforcement.” A couple of years ago, I addressed the shortcomings and cruel repercussions of that strategy after Mike Huckabee lost his Presidential bid, largely by endorsing Krikorian’s 10 point plan for Presidential victory, in which he first went public with his Attrition Through Enforcement policy. The article was titled, The Cruel And Intolerant Myth of Attrition: Why The Huckabee-Krikorian Scheme To Starve 20,000,000 Undocumented Economic Refugees Out Of The Country Is Inhumane, Fiscally Irresponsible, And Undermines American Values.

It concluded with the paragraph:

“It’s like condemning 20,000,000 hard working and God loving people to execution by a thousand small cuts. It is a slow and painful torture of humiliation, condemnation, loss of dignity, hunger, helplessness, homelessness, desperation, and finally submission. Is this the America that we want? Is this the America that we have become? Huckabee and Krikorian seem to think so. One minute, Huckabee is saying that, “we are a better country then that”, and the next he is proposing a scheme that would make the American Indian Trail of Tears seem like a casual stroll. Better then who, Governor? North Korea? Saudi Arabia? Darfur? If America is a better country then to demonstrate intolerance and inhumanity, (and we are), then show a little leadership by supporting a comprehensive immigration policy that can solve this problem in a compassionate and logical manner.”

In the radio discussion, Krikorian claimed that “Illegal immigrants have been having a picnic here since 1986.”

Juan Jose rightly corrected Krikorian, when he replied, “I wouldn’t say that the over 30,000,000 human beings that came here to work hard and make a better life for themselves and their families, and that have been arrested, deported, and separated from their families since 1986 have been having a picnic.

Clearly Krikorian just doesn’t have a clue, and that is extremely unfortunate, since he is looked upon by many of the opponents of CIR as being some sort of an expert on this subject, when clearly he is simply a lackey of his anti-CIR masters.

On the show, he went on to boldly threaten President Obama, stating that he would be impeached if he tried to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Is this simply hyperbole, or is Krikorian truly that delusional? Frankly, I say who cares? The time for restrictionism and obstructionism on this issue is over. As Rachel LaBruyere stated earlier this month here on Standing Firm: “Game on!” 2010 can’t come soon enough.

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