What are We Signing Onto When We Sign On to Immigration Reform?

What are We Signing Onto When We Sign On to Immigration Reform?


Last week the Judiciary Committee of the Senate discussed and debated amendments to S. 744,  the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 aka #CIR2013. The bill which came out of the bipartisan Senate Gang of 8 is being held up by many advocates and organizations as the best chance of some sort of comprehensive immigration reform, specifically because of the included “path to citizenship”. This path is what is being held up as the part of the legislation that must be defended in the name of a much needed “victory” for the immigrants’ rights movement.  Technology and social media are being especially used by key advocates to leverage popular support. But the question raised with these efforts is who determines the accepted messaging and what poison pills will be pushed down the throats of those most who stand to gain and lose the most with the bill, immigrant communities.

The current “fight” is being narrowly defined by most within  immigration advocacy networks as defending the path to citizenship. While it is often seen as more useful to struggle for something rather than against something, lost in the shuffle are the detrimental border security and enforcement requirements that must be met before any undocumented person is put on a path to legalization or citizenship. The usual targets are being lifted again into the spotlight, anti-immigrant lobbying organizations and legislators used as their mouthpieces. For the sake of so called unity, however, there has been a deafening silence against the billions of proposed dollars the bill calls for just in increased border enforcement.

The exceptions have been far and few between. The American Immigration Council in a statement released last week said, “Fences and more agents are not the solution. We need smart security measures that actually work, not high-priced fences that don’t. Given that apprehensions are down, there is no justification for drastically increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. In fact, the number of agents on the border has increased steadily for the past several years, nearly doubling between 2006 and 2011.”

The No More Deaths Campaign in Arizona has also spoken out against additional border security measures. Geoffrey Boyce, spokesperson with the volunteer-based humanitarian aid organization based in Tucson, Arizona told Politic365.com, “If the so-called “border security” measures in this bill are enacted we know exactly what will happen: there will be more deaths on the border, more stops, checkpoints and surveillance in which U.S. citizens and immigrants alike are racially profiled and harassed, and many thousands – potentially millions – of immigrants pushed even farther into the shadows. Even more troubling, the so-called “path to citizenship” that the bill offers would be held hostage to an arbitrary set of border security triggers, which, judging by Homeland Security’s track record, may postpone this relief indefinitely. We need to be clear: while this bill might offer needed relief for some undocumented immigrants, notably DREAM Act-eligible young people, on the balance it will make what is already a disastrous immigration system even worse. Instead of a punitive framework for immigration reform, we need measures that address the shortcomings and backlogs in our current visa system, that address the economic drivers of migration by reforming or repealing programs like NAFTA, and that ensure transparency and accountability from federal agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.”

While a some organizations have spoken out against more funding for border security, the White House has again pushed into the spotlight its highest ranking Latinadirector of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, who in a mass email touted the U.S. as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants and urging all to share their immigrant stories. It is doubtful that these stories will highlight the U.S.’s ignoring of international human rights law in how it deal with immigrants.  It is equally doubtful that among those stories will be those of the families of those who continue to die in detention or the stories of the families who have lost loved ones under current border control measures either through deportation or death.

Another area of concern is the requirement that the undocumented “register” their “unlawful presence” in the United States in order to potentially access a path to legalization/citizenship. With the border control triggers in place, there is no guarantee that the undocumented are being led into a “report to deport” program, that could put the lives of families at risk.

Fact sheets abound demonstrating the economic benefit of immigration reform in an effort to counter thinly veiled eugenic right wing reports claiming an economic drain. Certainly one segment stands to gain is the non-profit realm in terms of  funding that will insure their survival in the area of “civic engagement” with a path to citizenship. These organizations will support the integration of those wanting to become “new Americans.” There are however no fact sheets citing the human cost of increased border control and enforcement and the survival rates of future immigrants who will still seek to enter the United States via the Mexico/U.S. Border and will be met with increased surveillance, militarization, and policing.