Obama's Expected Immigration Reform Bill
USA Today has obtained a draft of President Obama's proposed immigration reform bill. It reports there is a path to lawful residency included in the bill, which will take 8 years. During this time, those working towards citizenship will receive a Lawful Prospective Immigrant Visa.
In past bills, a "lawful prospective immigrant" was one filed the initial registration for legalization, paid the fees, and passed the background checks. They would be granted work authorization and permission to remain in the U.S. Eight years later, they will be allowed to apply for LPR (lawful permanent resident) status.
Here is what the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is seeking.
Immigration reform needs to provide not just more immigration judges, but investing them with more discretion. Via AILA:
Long-time residents are subject to deportation even when they have strong ties to the community, pay taxes, and desperately want to become full-fledged members of our society. Many are eligible to apply for legal status, but because they lived in the U.S. for a period of time that was unauthorized they are now barred from fixing their status. Judges often have no ability to weigh the individual circumstances of the case while low-level officials often act as judge and jury, and the federal courts have been denied the power to review most agency decisions. Congress should restore fairness and flexibility to our system by authorizing immigration judges and officials to exercise discretion in considering the individual circumstances of each case," she concluded.
The Reform Enforcement Caucus has these ten essential principles of immigration reform. They include:
No More Excessive Penalties
We oppose expansion of excessive penalties for immigration violations, the separation of families, and the criminalization of communities – all of which have compromised due process and other fundamental rights
Ending reliance on detention: 34,000 immigrants are held daily.
Immigration law should ensure that people are not detained without access to individual custody determinations and constitutionally adequate bond hearings.
On the expansion of E-Verify:
Proposals to expand employment verification regimes would rely on massive, often inaccurate, databases. Inclusion of a biometric identification system would also threaten the right to privacy. Federal information sharing systems, including databases at several different agencies, lack protections and oversight needed. Reform should be mindful of the need to protect privacy.
Protecting the unity of the family must be at the heart of immigration policy. Reform should restore judicial discretion to immigration judges; provide a meaningful opportunity for parents to make care-giving decisions and participate in child custody proceedings; provide waivers to allow for family reunification for people following deportation; and a sensibly revise the family-based immigration system to reduce long backlogs.
A roadmap to citizenship, like all parts of our immigration law, should aim to keep families together,including those family members who have had past contact with law enforcement.
Mandatory detention and deportation laws have stripped judges of the discretion to consider the equities of individual cases. Lack of access to counsel, arbitrary limitations on independent judicial review in removal proceedings, and failure to provide constitutionally adequate bond hearings for people in immigration custody each limit access to a fair day in court. Immigration reform must ensure equal protection of the laws for all people.
The roadmap to citizenship must be just and fair with guarantees of effective oversight through judicial review. The due process problems in the detention and removal systems must be eliminated and additional enforcement measures that risk compromising due process and civil liberties avoided.
Also see, The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) A New Path toward humane immigration policy. Immigrants, regardless of status, deserve the same civil and human rights as all U.S. residents. Among their recommendations:
- End arrests, detention, and deportation of immigrants.
- Halt community sweeps, checkpoints, and roadblocks.
- Eliminate detention practices that separate family members, particularly parents from their children.
- Exercise discretion in arresting people for immigration violations, especially in cases that involve children or other vulnerable populations.
- Eliminate all agreements between the Department of Homeland Security and local/county/state
law enforcement agencies (287g)*.
- Ensure the due process rights of immigrants in detention, deportation, or removal proceedings
- Repeal immigration laws that mandate deportation and lead to double punishments for individuals who have served time on criminal offenses.
The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network has these principles of reform.
[P]roposals should provide opportunities for all undocumented immigrants to permanently regularize their status, expand the availability of legal immigration options, restore due process for all immigrants, demilitarize the border and end the widespread criminalization of immigrants.
1. An immediate moratorium on detentions and deportations
2. An immediate end to Secure Communities, 287(g) agreements, to all ICE/local enforcement programs, and to prosecution for immigration-related conduct that are non-criminal offenses, such as unlawful entry, driving without a license or other violations committed because of being undocumented. These programs lead to unconstitutional arrests and widespread racial profiling.
3. A legalization process that offers opportunities for all undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents, and:
- is affordable , straightforward and does not create such an unreasonable burden that it discourages people from applying
- provides the right of return to immigrants who have been deported over the last four years
- makes waivers available for applicants who fall under the Immigration and Nationality Act’s grounds of exclusion
- Includes the right to work and travel freely while the application is being adjudicated
- Offers access to all services, benefits and protections available to permanent residents
4. Expansion of opportunities for legal immigration, including:
- immediate processing of the backlog of pending visa applications
- increased number of family based visas
- recognizing same sex marriages/domestic partnerships under the family visa system
- eliminating harsh obstacles to immigrating or that further separate families, including high income requirements for immigrant sponsors and the 3 and 10 year bans for previous entry
5. End border militarization.
6. End temporary worker programs entirely. If temporary worker programs continue to exist, they must guarantee fundamental rights and include protections for every worker admitted under the program.
7. End mandatory electronic verification programs.
When viewed against what real reform requires, President Obama's plan is a bare bones minimum starting point. That Republicans oppose such mild reform proposals is reflective of their customary bigotry. Here's a chart of who will get cut out of reform if Obama's plan gets whittled down. Here's how Republican proposals would lead to more mass incarceration.
One reform everyone can make is to drop the word "illegal" from the discussion. No human being is illegal. Undocumented residents and undocumented immigrants are far better terms. Comments referring to persons as "illegal" will likely be deleted.
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