Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Blog

In a monumental vote, the Senate passed the bipartisan immigration bill S. 744 yesterday with a 68-32 margin. The strong support for this bill undoubtedly will send a strong message to Speaker Boehner to move forward with an immigration reform bill that uplifts the opportunity of every aspiring citizen to fully contribute to and participate in our nation’s communities and economy. Whether Boehner and House Republicans will actually support and allow the Senate bill to come to the House floor for vote - we shall wait and see.  

While the Senate immigration bill includes a much-needed pathway to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S, and offers an expedited road for DREAMers, it also includes a number of troubling border enforcement provisions that were adopted during the amendment process. The bill that was drafted by the Gang of Eight was significantly altered during the amendment process when the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment was passed earlier this week. The Corker-Hoeven amendment, which was blasted by a number of immigration advocates, essentially substitutes the entire bill and significantly changes the border security provisions and other parts of the bill as a result of a series of amendments from other senators that were latched onto the Corker-Hoeven amendment.

Advocates were focused on strengthening the profiling-ban section of the bill and eliminating a very troubling language (Graham 3) adopted during the markup of S. 744 in the Judiciary Committee that targets Arab American and American Muslim applicants for additional security screening. Graham 3 requires the Department of Homeland Security to conduct additional security screening on applicants for legal residency if they are or were previously a citizen or long-term resident of certain countries or regions that pose national security concerns. This language which was proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) casts sweeping suspicion on individuals based on their country or region of origin. This method of screening systemizes profiling and poses a serious threat to the civil and human rights of many of the people that S. 744 attempts to help. 

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013 last month, authored two very important profiling amendments (#1266, #1267) to the immigration bill that would have stricken the Graham language and would have strengthened the anti-profiling section in the bill. Cardin Amendment 1266 would have modified the Department of Homeland Security's authority to conduct additional security screening of individuals from certain countries or regions, and Amendment 1267 would have broadened the protected categories covered from profiling and would have removed the national security loopholes that make the current profiling provision ineffective. Although the amendments never came up for a vote, Sen. Cardin offered the following floor statement on Tuesday about his profiling amendments: "When law enforcement profiles based upon race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity, it is bad police policy. It is bad law enforcement policy. It leads to sloppy work. It leads to a waste of resources, and resources are very scarce. It causes communities to turn against law enforcement rather than working with law enforcement."

We applaud Sen. Cardin for his efforts and commitment to ensuring that profiling is prohibited in all of its forms.

Here's a snapshot of the good and bad provisions of S. 744 "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act."


Positives:

Road to Citizenship

  • Creates a path to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States.
  • Provides an expedited road for DREAMers who entered the U.S. before 16, graduated from high school (or received a GED) in the U.S., and attended at least 2 years of college or served 4 years in the military. After 5 years in provisional status, DREAMers may apply for adjustment to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and citizenship at the same time. 
  • Allows spouses and children to join "STEM" (science, technology, engineering, and math) and other professional visa-holders.

Educational Opportunities

  • Provides access to federal work-study and federal student loans for DREAMers and blue-card holders, although they remain ineligible for federal Pell grants until they adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. 

Workers' Rights

  • Provides protections for immigrant workers who are wrongfully terminated or who experience significant workplace abuse.

Border Security

  • Implements use-of-force policies and trainings for Border Patrol. 
  • Includes complaint procedures for violations of civil and human rights.  

Profiling

  • Includes an entire section on profiling, which prohibits profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity by federal law enforcement. 
  • The profiling section includes a data collection requirement that will monitor ongoing compliance.

Negatives:

Road to Citizenship

  • The road to citizenship is conditional and at least 13 years long for most people (10 years of registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status and 3 years of LPR status). 
  • An applicant must have arrived in the U.S. by Dec. 31, 2011. Anyone arriving after the cut-off date, is not eligibe. 
  • Requires proof of regular employment (with no gap longer than 60 days) for retaining status. 
  • Conditions and requirements will likely exclude 3 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants from gaining legal status. 

Border Security 

  • At a cost of $46 billion, the bill will double the number of agents to nearly 40,000, calls for completion of 700 miles of fencing, and will saturate communities with surveillance.
  • Incorporates the military into immigration enforcement, calling for recruitment of new agents from the armed service.
  • Requires the DHS for the first time to consult with the Department of Defense and authorize DHS to delegate authority to DOD.
  • Deprivation of 4th Amendment rights - the bill reinforces the extraordinary power of Border Patrol to act without a warrant and to stop people within 100 miles of the southern border and ask for their papers. This is prohibited by the Senate bill on the northern border beyond 25 miles and is prohibited everywhere else in the country.  

Profiling 

  • Does not address state and local laws and policies that result in profiling and does not discourage or preempt localities from enacting future laws. 
  • Codifies the Department of Justice Profiling Guidance which includes sweeping national security exceptions and does not prohibit profiling on the basis of national origin or religion. 
  • Includes language requiring the Department of Homeland Security to conduct additional security screening on applicants for legal residency if they are or were previously a citizen or long-term resident of certain countries or regions that posed national security concerns. This language casts sweeping suspicion on individuals based on their country or region of origin and will primarily target Arab Americans and American Muslims. This method of screening systemizes profiling and poses a serious threat to the civil and human rights of many of the people that S. 744 attempts to help. 

Diversity Visa Program

  • Eliminates the government's Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which awards 50,000 visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Nearly half of lottery-based 2012 diversity visa recipients hail from African nations with an additional 30 percent from underrepresented countries in Europe. In 2012, selected applicants from Egypt made up the fourth highest number in the program, with nearly 4,000 applicants selected for the program from Morocco and Algeria combined.   

 

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