Dear Senators Schumer, Durbin, Menendez, Bennet, McCain, Graham, Rubio and Flake:
The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the largest national coalition of immigrant rights organizations advancing the interests of immigrants and their families at the federal, state and local level, is pleased that progress on bipartisan immigration reform is being made. We write to express our collective concerns over certain elements of the current framework for reform.
Completion of Enforcement “Triggers” must not be tied to a Path to Citizenship
While managing our nation’s borders and the flow of immigration is a legitimate government interest, it is an entirely separate and distinct issue from putting the 11 million members of our communities on a path to citizenship. As such, requiring the completion of the proposed enforcement measures outlined in the bipartisan principles before any immigrant can become a lawful permanent resident is senseless and unnecessary.
In addition, we are deeply concerned that the principles call for spending additional taxpayer dollars on increasing the use of unmanned drones and hiring more border enforcement agents in an effort to “secure the border,” despite overwhelming evidence that the border is under greater operational control today than it has been in decades, unauthorized border crossings are at historic lows, and border cities are among the safest in the nation.
In addition, requiring the development and implementation of an entry-exit system for temporary visa holders before individuals can apply for green cards will cause lengthy and needless delays to putting people on a meaningful path to citizenship.
Reform must include a Meaningful, Unencumbered Path to Citizenship
Latino, Asian and immigrant communities sent a clear message on Election Day: creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living and working in the U.S. is a critical issue for voters. A legalization package must lead to lawful permanent resident status and qualification for citizenship in a reasonable period of time. Based on the bipartisan principles, it could take decades before an individual could apply to become a lawful permanent resident.
Family Reunification must be the bedrock of a reform package
While we were pleased to see that your proposal recognizes the need to strengthen American families by reducing backlogs in family visa categories, we are concerned about the lack of specificity in the proposal and request that you release a more detailed plan regarding how you intend to reduce such backlogs.
Currently, families are divided by visa waiting periods and processing delays that can last decades. In addition, the bars to re-entry must be eliminated, so that no individuals who are eligible for an immigrant visa are punished by being separated from their family for many years. Family unification also includes opening a path of return for U.S. citizens’ and residents’ immediate family members who have been deported.
We are also concerned that the current proposal remains silent on the issue of LGBTQ couples. There are as many as 40,000 same-sex bi-national couples in the United States. Under our current system, these couples must spend months or years apart, and in some cases are forced to return to home countries where they may be subject to abuse because of their sexual orientation.
Immigration Reform must provide Opportunities for Safe Future Migration and Ensure Worker Protections
We also have concerns about your plans for implementation of an employment verification system. As you know, the current system used by the government has been found by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to result in persistent errors that have created problems for thousands of workers who are eligible to work in the U.S. yet are identified falsely by the system as ineligible. In such cases, the system erroneously identifies workers as “nonconfirmations” and has led employers to not hire or to fire workers who are in fact eligible to work in the U.S.
With regard to your proposal to create a “workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry,” we urge you to create a program that provides legal and safe options for migrant workers, ensures equal rights for all workers, and minimizes opportunities for abuse by unscrupulous employers and others. To achieve this, we urge you to ensure the future flow of migrant workers is considered by a federal commission charged with setting the number of visas available based on labor market conditions in particular industries and locations. Without such restrictions, unscrupulous employers will avail themselves of an unlimited pool of cheap labor, suppressing wages for all workers.
Members of Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) Executive Committee:
Alliance for a Just Society
Alliance for Immigrant Rights Michigan
Center for Community Change
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
Florida Immigrant Coaltition
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Make the Road New York
Massachusetts Immigrant Rights Association
New York Immigrant Coalition
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
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