By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
I read with interest the "framework" on immigration reform submitted by New York Senator Charles Schumer and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Once again, I thought my hopes for true immigration reform were about to become a reality.
We have seen other hopeful pieces of federal legislation that had been proposed in the past, only to read in the details that little were being proposed in terms of how the legislation would affect the undocumented masses. There was plenty in the past pieces of legislation on how to do everything except deal humanely with the people most affected by the legislation. The framework provided by these two good senators is no different.
Again we have little in terms of federal legislation trying to be passed on as "comprehensive immigration reform." While both senators agree "our immigration system is badly broken," they also expressed their "belief that America's security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies."
Sounds a lot like the same ole, same ole baloney from the past.
So now, both senators are only proposing "draft framework for action on immigration," not even a full proposal, much less anything to propose to the Congress. Even President Obama agreed that the Schumer/Graham proposal was a good idea, probably because it didn't commit him to anything.
You will notice that Senator Schumer, the real chief of the "guidelines," and the "draft framework for action on immigration," really has nothing to propose at all. It is the same old "secure the borders and make sure we supply enough low paying jobs to the economy." Nothing in their guidelines to address the injustice and job robbery we have committed against undocumented immigrants in the past.
In essence here is their plan. "Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here."
Do you see anything new here? The "biometric Social Security card" proposal is nothing more than a national ID card pipe dream. The Homeland Security Department has tried different ways to impose a national ID card on Americans. Now they think they have a way around our strong objections to a national ID card.
A "biometric Social Security card" has nothing to do with immigration reform, only as a means by which the Federal Government can track workers.. Much like the question recently sent to you by the Census Bureau asking if you own or rent your home. Whose business is that in the Federal Government?? How does that relate to "the count required every ten years by the government?"
We have heard so much good news on how the E-Verify Employee tracking system is working. Wrong, we have heard how the E-Verify employee tracking system has not been very reliable and how hard working individuals are being denied good employment because some federal tracking plan is not very reliable or can actually track who should or should not be working in country. Now we are going to be given a "new biometric Social Security card" that is going to be one of the pillars for comprehensive reform.
The two good senators also expect that "fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement" will be key in their immigration proposal. That doesn't sound very original either.
What these two senators are proposing is ridiculous and only means increasing ICE type enforcement in our country. "Interior enforcement?" What does that mean? It sounds like they are going to continue to separate and destroy families by increased detention and deportations and do it legally under a new comprehensive immigration law.
Our government already detains over 34,000 undocumented immigrants in detentions every single day. Our government continues to contract with private prison vendors to build and manage these jails we have built claiming they will provide us security and safety by eliminating the criminal elements associated with illegal immigration
The Obama Administration in its first year has already deported more than 120,000 fathers, mothers, and children than the Bush Administration did in it last year in power. And now our good senators want tougher "interior enforcement"? Is that something you really want? Do you really think all the people in immigration detention are the bad criminals ICE says they are?
I am not so sure I like the way the two good senators propose fixing the border issues. After spending billions of dollars on a border fence that only covers about half of the 2000 mile border with Mexico, our two good senators want to continue to pour billions more on border security. They propose, "We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol's staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities."
Where have these two good senators been for the last ten years? The Bush Administration added thousands of Border Patrol agents to the border. He even assigned thousands of National Guard troops to the border, along with his hundreds of volunteer border vigilantes who stood guard on the border. Now these two good senators feel the billions spent on the Bush border wall was a waste of money and we need to spend more money on border security that only bleeds more illicit drugs and gang violence into our country?
Even I know the tactical strategy for fighting the drug war along our southern border with Mexico should be different than trying to run down undocumented immigrants who come here for a better job. We are facing two different entry strategies - one with good consequences, and the other that has created a violent war zone between Mexico and the United States over illicit drugs.
Applying the same amount of federal dollars "securing our border" should have different distinct strategies trying to prevent the hard working immigrant from crossing the border, and preventing the Mexican cartels from delivering billions of dollars in drugs to the American consumer. Maybe better interior enforcement of selling illicit drugs and human trafficking would solve a big part of the criminal element the two good senators want to capture?
I wonder if the two good senators have ever heard of the "system of supply and demand." The only reason these drug cartels are killing innocent men, women, and children is for the right to export illicit drugs to the American consumer. Yes indeed, the user who lives in the belt way, the high end condos and apartments, the rich neighborhoods, and who have the billions to spend on drug related trips away from reality?
While I may partly agree with the zero tolerance strategy to capture, detain, and deport criminals, we have seen how this policy has not worked very well under the Obama Administration. In fact, interior enforcement is stronger today than under President Bush. It is just good politicking to be for "zero tolerance."
Our two good senators are trying to sell this "new enforcement strategy" under the guise of a new proposal on immigration reform. Here is what they propose, as a way of securing "our interior." "Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases."
Did you know that over 50% of the undocumented immigrants in our country over stay their legal visa? It is not the scene ICE likes to paint. ICE likes to portray their job as tracking down hundreds of thousands crossing the border every day and thus the need for more Border Patrol agents, more high tech surveillance, and miles more of a fence proven to be inadequate for the job.
Most of the people who fall into the category of "illegal alien," and "overstay their visas" are good people who want a new life here. They are not criminals as the two good senators would have you believe. We all are for "a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally." The problem is the agencies involved in enforcement cannot tell the difference between "gang member, smugglers, and terrorists who commit other felonies after coming here illegally."
You have heard the expression, "Well, they all look alike." So under that false premise, ICE fills the detention centers with "criminals," in other words, just using a criminal and racial profiling kit to detain and deport hundreds of good fathers, mothers, and families under a zero tolerance that does not allow for questioning who ICE may have in their jails. I would challenge you to see what the "criminal profile" looks like in your local ICE and privately contracted detention center.
If they intend is to track down people who overstay their legal visas, and create a new "entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases," then look out for the need for more privately controlled detention centers that have forgotten the United States Constitution is still the law of the land.
Then look for more enforcement raids at the homes of people who have overstayed their visas. Look for local enforcement to bemoan the fact that they must now stop, detain, and report to ICE any good hard working individual because they may have overstayed their visas.
Please stop and consider for a moment. More momentum being built by the "framework or guidelines" for immigration control by these two good senators is only going to create a more suspicious and hate filled political environment in our country. Now everyone will be suspect..and trust me, this will only give law enforcement a free rein on racial profiling.
Their proposal to create a new process for allowing low income workers, I mean temporary workers, into the country, means a "new Bracero problem, I mean program." We have seen how manufacturing, farming, and the service industry have treated temporary workers. By providing a new process for allowing these low income workers in the country, will that include protections against abuse, robbery, housing, and assurances of a living wage? Or does this new process just mean more of the same?
Read the incentive for doing a good job, "Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card ."
I must admit I find it humorous that the two good senators would propose a "tough but fair path forward" for the 11 million undocumented immigrants still in our country. They are quick to show that 1 million have left the country in the last year, but can't conduct an American census without first overspending more than 14 million dollars so far (and still don't have a reliable count).
The undocumented immigrants would have to admit they are criminals for crossing the border. They would have to pay back taxes, which I thought millions were already doing, and still not being able to apply for medical or social needs?
They would have to perform hundreds of hours of community service, or just another way to allow them to continue to work for free or low end wages.
But wait; here is what really shows me these two good senators have no grasp of reality. They propose, "These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence."
They must pass a background check, after spending years in the United States doing whatever was necessary to destroy any documents or evidence they were living in the shadows of America illegally.
Must be proficient in English? Does that mean being able to say, "Wait a minute? I worked 56 hours this week, and you owe me for 56 hours of work?" "Or you promised to pay me $12 an hour to do this work, now you want to pay me $8 because you think I will not report you to the authorities? Or probably the most classic question being asked today, "What do you mean you are not going to pay me for the work I did for you because you know I am undocumented immigrant?"
If the two good senators added up all the work not paid or underpaid to today's hard working undocumented workers, they would be adding to their framework proposal for repayment to undocumented immigrants for work well done, not more community service or more in "back taxes."
I trust our Latino Evangelical leaders will not fall in the false trap of "immigration is at hand." It is not, if we are to follow the two good senators "framework for immigration reform."
As far as I am concerned, the proof is in the details. I have seen no reason to celebrate a proposed guideline for reform, one from a New York Senator, and the other from a Republican Senator. Show me the money should be our cry. Show me the details.
If our Evangelical leadership does not stand up against this false pretense that immigration is at hand, and condemn the lies of this Administration and United States Representatives and Senators, then please don't show up on the stage on Sunday, March 21st and claim immigration reform is at hand. Please don't join the liars from the government. And yes, we will be watching and listening to your speeches. Be fair, but don't lie about immigration reform being at hand, because it is not!
You know what the facts are back home in the barrio, in the local Evangelical church, in the schools back home, or on the job situation. Reading the guidelines proposed by Senators Graham & Schumer, and supported by President Obama should be enough to call for the immigration reform train to stop right now.
We will not accept your piecemeal approach to comprehensive immigration reform. We do not accept your premise that our people are bad people and thus must pay fines, do community service, and deny their culture by making them stop using Spanish to become American citizens.
I suppose if we closed the southern border tight, and allowed immigrants seeking a better life to pass by the Statue of Liberty, they would be worthy to be American citizens. Then they too could say, "¡Gloria a Dios! Hemos llegado a la tierra donde fluyen leche y miel. Siento un inmenso orgullo y es un grab honor estar aquí. Me siento como un ciudadano estadounidense, muy orgulloso. Nuestro hogar está ahora en la tierra de la tranquilidad, la justicia y la paz."
( "Glory to God, we have arrived to the land of milk and honey. I am so full of pride and honor to be here. I feel like an American citizen...so proud. We are home to a land of tranquility, justice, and peace." )
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.
The New York Times
By Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey O. Graham
Friday, March 19, 2010
Our immigration system is badly broken. Although our borders have become far more secure in recent years, too many people seeking illegal entry get through. We have no way to track whether the millions who enter the United States on valid visas each year leave when they are supposed to. And employers are burdened by a complicated system for verifying workers' immigration status.
Last week we met with President Obama to discuss our draft framework for action on immigration. We expressed our belief that America's security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies.
The answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies.
Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.
Besides border security, ending illegal immigration will also require an effective employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. A tamper-proof ID system would dramatically decrease illegal immigration, experts have said, and would reduce the government revenue lost when employers and workers here illegally fail to pay taxes.
We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.
Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person's identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.
We propose a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally. We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol's staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.
Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases.
Ending illegal immigration, however, cannot be the sole objective of reform. Developing a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity.
Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest. Our legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy.
Our blueprint also creates a rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers. Our current system prohibits lower-skilled immigrants from coming here to earn money and then returning home. Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.
For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.
The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation. We urge the public and our colleagues to join our bipartisan efforts in enacting these reforms.
Charles E. Schumer is a Democratic senator from New York. Lindsey O. Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.