Buses, vans and cars carrying more than 3,000 activists from at least 17 states descended on Washington D.C. to call for immigration reform, cheering when Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s (D-IL) introduced his blueprint for reform that will form the basis of an immigration reform bill to be introduced in November.
As Rep. Luis Gutierrez said, “We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you; but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship. We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our workforce by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows.”
The blueprint is an exciting step forward to bring reform that respects due process and fairness – calling on workable solutions that will take the American people forward and hold true to our values as a nation. Its highlights include a pathway to legalization for undocumented workers, effective border enforcement, a need to ensure future flows of workers , and family unity as a cornerstone of the immigration system. It also talks of the need for smart and humane interior enforcement stating, “Inside the country, my plan will promote fair immigration proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees and policies that respect the tenets of community policing.”
This is a key point for the Restore Fairness campaign, which calls for immigration reform legislation that must address due process failures embodied in current immigration law, including ending the prolonged detention of people who pose no risk or danger, creating legally enforceable standards for detention, and restoring discretion so immigration judges can consider individual circumstances when rendering deportation decisions. Although we are heartened to see the administration move forward with detention reform, a recent interview on NPR with the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security, John Morton reveals that “this reform effort is not about whether or not we detain people; it’s about how we detain them,” thus not fundamentally addressing the heightened enforcement tactics that have led to an overburdened system in the first place.
60% of detainees are now arriving from state and local enforcement programs that enforce immigration law, but most of these detainees are low level offenders or have no crime, very unlike the main aim of the programs which are to catch serious and violent offenders. That’s why any immigration reform must include an end to raids and legislation that gives state and local authorities a role in enforcing federal civil immigration laws – a policy which has been ineffective, led to racial and ethnic profiling and created an environment of fear that discourages immigrant communities from cooperating with the police.
These are tough challenges and need collective support so we can celebrate the fair and diverse land of opportunity that America is.
Image courtesy of www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org