Gloria Meneses-Sandoval: Immigration is a human rights issue

August 6, 2013

Gloria Meneses-Sandoval, Secretary of Immigration

As immigration reform remains paralyzed by congressional gridlock, the Green Shadow Cabinet calls for comprehensive immigration reform that will protect human rights, open the path to citizenship, and help reverse the economic devastation wrought by so-called “free trade agreements” that have impoverished and uprooted people. We need to ensure a path to citizenship that is accessible and fair. We must demonstrate that we are truly a nation that not only believes but practices equality and justice by providing the opportunity to all living within our borders to stop living in the shadows.

A critical first step towards a humane immigration reform is to stop separating families. We call for a halt to all deportations.  Let’s provide an opportunity to those who have been deported to reunite with their loved ones. It is time to stop putting children of undocumented up for adoption and to stop the criminalization of immigrants.

House Republicans so far are unwilling to vote on a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants. They are focused instead on  “ensuring a secure border” by investing $50 billion in walls, drones, and more border patrols.

A bipartisan plan by the so-called Gang of Eight’s (4 Democrats and 4 Republicans) advanced in the Senate, but is still unacceptable. The Senators would create a program to bring hundreds of thousands of people across the border as “guest workers” – an idea rejected in 1965. The Senate bill would supply vulnerable workers at low wages to employers. In exchange for legalization for some undocumented people, wages for guest workers would be set close to the minimum, driving down wages for those already here. The Senate restricts family visas and give more work visas to labor recruiters for Wal-Mart or growers.

At best, this Congress will cut a deal to benefit corporations that profit from low-wage immigrant labor, as opposed to looking out for the human beings that are living in the “shadows” of our society.

The increased immigration into the U.S. can be traced to the “free trade” agreements that favored rising sales and profits for multi-national businesses. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreements) and in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have not favored the working people of any of these countries. In fact, these treaties have caused many to lose their livelihoods. Borders have been opened to multi-national corporations, but small farmers and artisans outside of the U.S.A. have been hurt in the process. These agreements should be replaced with fair trade agreements that support worker rights, environmental protection and fair economic development.

Most undocumented immigrants arrived in the U.S. to make a living to help support their families because they have had few or no options in their own countries. It is not a crime to seek employment to support one’s family, even if it requires crossing borders. Immigration reform must promote economic opportunity. It must help all low-income Americans – immigrants and citizen born in the U.S. – achieve better wages, working conditions, and labor protections. It must make sure everyone is playing by the same set of rules so that it is harder for unscrupulous employers to cheat immigrants

Instead, our country’s immigration policy has made the southern border with Mexico a war zone. Deaths, killings and abuses are increasing. The U.S. war in the Middle East is winding down but war at the border is escalating. The more than 700 miles of fences, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), and night vision equipment would further militarize the border.

And what of the economic questions on this side of the border? At a time with congressional sequestration reflects a (supposed) shortage of tax monies for social needs, how can we spend $46  billion on border security rather than investing in our schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure repair?

Many undocumented individuals are already paying billions in various taxes (e.g., payroll, income, sales, property) but are denied access to the services funded by such taxes. The proposed immigration reform will exclude these individuals from any benefits anywhere from five (for Dreamers) to 15 years for those who have already lived here 20 to 30 years.

Many companies already richly benefit from the labor of undocumented workers. Strangely, Secure Communities (aka S-Com) is a government implemented program that has been deporting the very farm workers that agricultural businesses are now reporting as scarce.

Immigration is a human and civil rights issue – it’s not whether Democrats or Republicans win or lose seats – but about what people need. There are 11 million undocumented adults and children who have mixed U.S. and/or foreign born children or spouses are well integrated into our society. They own their homes, are paying rent, have a business, are paying for college costs. They are already here and are our neighbors and co-workers, classmates, and little league players. We sit next to them at our houses of prayer.

We must help end their status of living in fear that their families will be separated. Our labor laws should protect them just like we need to be protected. They should not be excluded from receiving healthcare, food stamps, or subsidized housing.

Gloria Meneses-Sandoval serves as Secretary of Immigration in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.

Article source here.

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