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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

MORE THAN 30 LATINO ORGANIZATIONS CALL ON DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS TO REJECT S.744 IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL

GROWING NUMBER OF LATINO LEADERS AND ORGANIZATIONS DECLARE IMMIGRATION BILL “DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO THE CAUSE OF FAIR AND HUMANE IMMIGRATION REFORM. ” HISPANIC, BLACK AND PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS' ASKED TO LEAD NEW REFORM PROCESS

July 26, 2013

A growing number of Latino leaders and organizations have declared their opposition to Senate Bill 744, the U.S. Senate’s version of comprehensive immigration reform, which now languishes in the House of Representatives. This new grouping of national, state, and regional organizations signed-on to a joint letter and position paper sent to Democratic and Republican federal legislators. The letter can be seen below.

“The border surge amendment was a deal killer for us and a growing number of advocacy groups and individuals, which had sought fair and humane immigration reform, not authoritarian immigration policies in the interior and a militarization of the border with Mexico,” declared Angela Sanbrano of the National Network of Migrant Leaders and Organizations.

The groups have conducted polling and direct consultation with their constituents and concluded that they could no longer support the Senate version.

According to Taína Vega, Director of Hermandad Mexicana, the oldest Mexican immigrant rights organization in the U.S., “after thousands of interviews with our members explaining the finer details of S.744, we have found extremely high opposition to President Obama’s take on comprehensive reform, although high hopes for fair reform.” She added, “single female heads-of-household will be disqualified due to the annual income requirement of 125% of the federal poverty guideline.

“Numerous reputable organizations, and even the Congressional Budget Office have reported that it is quite probable that less than half of the estimated 11 million undocumented would qualify for the RPI permit, which doesn’t even constitute legalization or a path to citizenship, and the remainder would be deported according to S.744,” observed Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org.

“We held out much hope for the “gang of eight’s” compromise legislation, but the disqualifying hurdles for the Registered Provisional Immigration (RPI) permit would result in mass deportations and decades long servitude,” explained Carlos Arango, Director of CASA Aztlan of Chicago, Illinois.

“The guest-worker provisions of S.744 for both skilled professionals and unskilled workers and for farm-laborers takes the country back a century in the unscrupulous use of contract labor exceeding the annual numbers used in the infamous Bracero Program during 1942 to 1964,” stated Professor Armando Vazquez-Ramos of California State University at Long Beach.

Professor Alfonso Gonzalez of CUNY in New York explained that, “It appears that the only undocumented that would have an easier path to full legal residency are the so-called Dreamers, youth born elsewhere but brought to the U.S. by their parents, yet we are observing growing opposition from them to the many obstacles posed under S.744 for their parents and older siblings.”

Salvador Reza of Tonatierra based in Phoenix, Arizona along with Enrique Morones of Border Angeles of San Diego, California decried the mounting border deaths resulting from the increased border militarization over the past fifteen years. “The border surge clause in S.744 will only exacerbate the current situation,” concluded Reza.

The National Progressive Latino, Immigrant, and Indigenous Organizations have launched a national campaign to oppose S.744 and advocate for fair and humane immigration reform, which includes generous legalization provisions, no criminalization of immigrants or militarization of border communities. These organizations represent long-time on the ground advocates and organizers for immigrant rights.

TEXT OF LETTER
July 18, 2013

Re: Latino, Immigrant, and Indigenous Peoples Organizations and Leaders Strongly Oppose S.744

Dear Representative:

We the undersigned representatives of Latino, immigrant, and Indigenous peoples organizations and communities write to urge you to reject S.744 in its current form. After much reflection, we have concluded that S.744 does more harm than good to the cause of fair and humane immigration reform. We expect that the bill will only get worse and even more focused on “border security-first” as it goes to the House of Representatives. Recent polling findings by Latino Decisions underscore that Latino voters do not support the border militarization or ineffective legalization components of S.744.

We marched, we protested, and we voted for real immigration reform. But rather than fulfill the promise of citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the country, we got legislation, S.744, which will plunge millions in immigrant and border communities into a more profound crisis than the one they already face. This flawed legislation begins with the mistaken and dangerous premise that puts punishment over people and enforcement over citizenship. S.744 is neither inclusive nor fair. We cannot in good conscience support S.744 without major substantive changes. Our rejection does not condone the defeat of immigration reform. Rather, it represents the decency and dignity of a community drawing the line against more punishment of immigrants. These same values will continue to guide our struggle for humane and just immigration reform in 2013 and beyond.

In practice, S.744 will:

  • - Block Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI) from seeking lawful permanent resident status or citizenship for decades or forever;

  • - Exclude or disqualify, over time, more than 5 million undocumented persons from the Registered Provisional Immigrant program; Subject Registered Provisional Immigrants to reprehensible and unacceptable conditions for ten or more years in order to maintain status;

  • - Increase discrimination and racial profiling of people of color through nationwide mandatory E-verify of every worker- citizen and non-citizen- in the country; and

  • - Create a virtual police-state and create environmental disasters in the 27 border counties by militarizing the US- Mexico border including weapons-capable drones, 40,000 guards, and 700 miles of border walls;
  • Such a proposal does not, in any way, reflect the kind of humane, inclusive, and common sense values that we envisioned before and since the 2012 elections. We write to ask you to join us in rejecting this legislation in the name of continuing the fight for real immigration reform.

    Please contact Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org if you have any comments or questions at

    arturo@presente.org. Sincerely,

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    National and Regional Organizations

    Dignity Campaign
    Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales, FIOB Hermandad Mexicana
    Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) Presente.org
    Red Mexicana de Lideres y Organizaciones Migrantes Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) Southwest Workers Union (SWU)
    William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)

    State and Local Organizations

    Alianza Latinoamericana por los Derechos de los Inmigrantes (ALIADI) Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, AMEXCAN
    Anahauk Youth Soccer Association
    Association for Residency and Citizenship of America (ARCA)

    Border Angels, San Diego
    Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Fund
    Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, Tucson, Arizona
    Coastal Bend Committee for Human Rights
    Communion of Independent Catholic Churches, San Diego, CA
    Durango Unido in Chicago
    Federacion Zacatecana, A.C., FEDZAC
    Gente Unida, San Diego, CA
    The Hispanic Community Dialogue, Virginia Beach, VA
    Latino/Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley
    LULAC, Inland Empire
    San Bernardino Community Service Center, Inc
    Mundo Maya Foundation
    Seminario Permanente de Estudios Chicanos y de Fronteras y Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio.,México, D. F.

    Individuals

    Juan Jose Bocanegra
    Alfredo Gutierrez, Author of To Sin Against Hope, Former majority leader of the Arizona State Senate
    Sal Reza
    Primitivo Rodríguez
    Patricia Schano Allen, President, Research Applications
    Melanie Stuart, Public Policy Chairperson for the American Association of University Women-Chula Vista Rick Swartz, President, Strategic Solutions Washington
    Victor Manuel Torres, Spokesperson, El Grupo, North San Diego County
    Prof. Armando Vazquez-Ramos, President, California-Mexico Studies Center

    Appendix 1: Latino, Immigrant, and Indigenous Peoples Organizations and Leaders’Critique of S.744

    After much reflection, we have concluded that S.744 does more harm than good to the cause of fair and humane immigration reform.

    What follows is a more complete explanation of our major concerns about S. 744:

    S.744’s Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program will exclude and/or disqualify over time 5 million undocumented persons from adjustment of status

    With the exceptions of the beneficiaries of the Dream Act and AgJobs programs, S.744’s legalization provisions fail most of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States. According to the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study only 8 of the 11 plus million undocumented persons in the US will initially achieve RPI status. .

    Moreover, a recent analysis by leading immigration attorney and national advocate Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), of Senate Bill 744’s legalization provisions found that (1) for several reasons the entire population of Registered Provisional Immigrants may never be eligible to apply for permanent resident status or citizenship, and (2) even if these obstacles are overcome, at least half of the remaining approximately 8 million undocumented immigrants may never qualify for permanent status (or citizenship) because of the onerous “continuous employment” and federal poverty guideline requirements, and the high costs combined with the requirement to pay past taxes. Click here for a legal and demographic analysis of Senate Bill 744’s Pathway to Legalization and Citizenship by Schey.

    The RPI program will have a disproportionately negative impact on immigrant women who only have a 60% workforce participation rate according to a recent Migration Policy Institute (MPI) study.

    In the face of these facts, those positing that “11 million will be legalized” are exaggerating. They do a disservice to both the U.S. public and, more importantly, to the millions of individuals and families who do not know that they may be among the many excluded by S.744.

    S.744’s Continuous employment and 125% of poverty income provisions subject RPI visa holders to workplace discrimination, exploitation and sexual harassment;

    Even those “fortunate enough” to meet the requirements to gain RPI status are at high risk to become indentured servants locked into overly burdensome continuous employment and income obligations for at least ten—and perhaps fifteen or more—years given the “backlog/back of the line” and “border security” trigger provisions.

    RPIs will be without health care and are ineligible for federal safety net benefits. They will be excluded from access to billions of dollars in previously paid social security benefits.

    S.744 RPI’s will be denied their most basic power as an employee -- the right to withhold their labor if an employer abuses, harasses or exploits them. Conversely, employers will be empowered to engage in unlawful worksite and labor law violations. RPIs who resist employer abuses risk losing employment for 60 days or more. This puts them at high risk of losing RPI status and/or becoming ineligible for permanent resident status.

    Female RPI card holders will be disproportionately affected. For example, S.744 grants some housewives “dependent” status; i.e. dependent on their husbands’continuous employment and their continuous relationship. In practice, “dependents” suffering domestic abuse, including children, will be significantly discouraged from leaving their homes or reporting abuse to the authorities.

    Notably, the provisions obligating that permanent resident status not be awarded to qualified RPI card holders upon completion of the multi-year probationary period, unless the border is “secure” and the backlog of pre- existing visa applications are resolved, create a scenario of inevitable and unpredictable delays. There will be no objective way to “prove” border security concerns have been met as S.744 is written, or assurances that resolving 100% of the current visa back-log can be accomplished in 10 or 20 years, or ever. For example, the current backlog includes cases more than 20 years old. S.744’s “backlog” and “border security” requirements guarantee an indeterminate number of years of delay before RPI status holders can even apply for permanent resident status.

    At the same time, S.744 significantly increases judges, courts and the legal mechanisms to detain and deport those excluded from RPI status or ultimately denied lawful permanent resident status.

    S.744’s E-verify program is fatally flawed
    E-verify will just increase discrimination and racial profiling. It places an undue burden of costs on small businesses

    and if fully implemented will undermine job growth.

    The extension of E-Verify to every worker in the U.S. lays the foundation for precisely the national identification system and national database tracking systems that most people in the U.S. oppose.

    The “enhanced driver ’s license” provision adopts the requirements of section 202 of the REAL ID Act of 2005, requiring the sharing of driver's license photos among the states and federal government, a program 25 states have opposed by law or resolution. We understand that only 13 states have joined the enhanced driver’s license program of the REAL ID Act of as of 2012. This law also removes the religious accommodations that 20 states offer in the form of driver’s licenses without photographs for reasons of religious faith.

    E-Verify in fact misidentifies about one percent of American job applicants as unlawful. The GAO has predicted that approximately 164,000 U.S. citizens per year will receive a Tentative No confirmation (“TNC”) just for issues related to name changes. Tens of thousands more may receive TNCs because of transliteration problems, simple typos in Government records databases, or identity theft.

    Even the existing limited use of E-Verify has shown that erroneous TNCs produce discriminatory outcomes primarily affecting citizens with foreign names, naturalized citizens, and legal immigrants. Furthermore, errors will disproportionately impact women and immigrants about whom the databases have incorrect information due, for example, to marriage-related name changes or hyphenated last names.

    Mandatory E-Verify may also reduce state and federal payroll tax revenues because many employers will move existing unauthorized workers not granted RPI status and future unauthorized workers off the books to avoid detection.

    Under S.744, hundreds of thousands of US workers may be required, within 10 days of getting a TNC, to contact an appropriate Federal agency and “appear in person....” As past experience shows, a significant number of U.S. workers will fail to correct erroneous non-confirmations, with a disproportionate number being women and other low-income workers.

    It has been estimated that mandatory nationwide use of the E-Verify program will cost employers with fewer than 500 employees about $2.6 billion a year.

    S.744’s border surge is unnecessary as a matter of policy, and will significantly increase border deaths along with violations of human and civil rights.

    Today, $18 billion in enforcement infrastructure is already in place after an unprecedented ten year build-up that includes 300 towers, hundreds of miles of walls, electronic surveillance equipment and thousands of border guards. At a border that the FBI certifies as safe, prioritizing “border security” represents an unacceptable escalation of an already extremely dangerous pattern of waste and violence.

    Net migration from Mexico has been zero or close to zero for several years and unauthorized border crossings are the lowest in a generation. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano certified the border as “secure.”

    The “border surge”, with a price tag of $47 billion dollars, will significantly increase border deaths as unauthorized crossers brave even more harrowing and dangerous circumstances. This has been documented over the last several years as increased border enforcement has caused border deaths to increase substantially even though unauthorized crossings have gone down significantly.

    The “border surge” will cause civil rights violations of U.S. border residents. 40,000 border guards buttressed by electronic surveillance equipment and dozens of drones will “occupy” border communities combing for “undocumentedimmigrant”profilesthatareinpracticeindistinguishablefromthatofthemajoritycitizenand legal population. Fifty-four percent (54%) of the 7.5 million border county inhabitants are Latinos according to the 2012 Census.

    The “border surge” will also adversely impact indigenous communities whose ancestors have lived in the area and worked the land for hundreds of years, including ¡Lipan Apaches, Kickapoo, and the Tohono O’odham nation. Indigenous peoples in the border areas have suffered destruction of their land, loss of land grants, and unilateral extinguishment of land titles, more recently through ¡Operation Gatekeeper, Operation Hold the Line (1993/4), Operation Safeguard (1995), the Secure Border Initiative (2005), and the Secure Fence Act (2006).

    Finally, as recent exposes in the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times report, S.744 is a boondoggle for the private prison and surveillance technology industries that will get even more billions of dollars in contracts for border enforcement, for more “immigrant prisons,” and for the implementation of E-verify.