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Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What Is It and Why We Need It.

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Presentation on theme: "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What Is It and Why We Need It."— Presentation transcript:

1 Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What Is It and Why We Need It

2 OneAmerica (Formerly Hate Free Zone) Mission is to advance democracy and justice at the local, state and federal levels through building power in immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies Started in 2001 after September 11, 2001 Now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington Focus on community organizing, policy advocacy, and leadership development Also run the Washington New Americans Program New membership program

3 Why reform the immigration system? Why is it “broken”? ▫Immigration laws are out of sync with 21 st century economic realities ▫Current legal immigration system is plagued by backlogs and delays ▫Vast underground economy of vulnerable workers ▫Increasingly moved to harsh enforcement practices that hurt families but do not fix the problems ▫Decreasing due process protections

4 Immigration laws out of sync with 21 st century realities Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is either foreign- born or the child of someone who is foreign-born In 2004, almost 15% of the labor force was foreign-born Between 1996 and 2003, foreign-born workers accounted for 58% of the 11 million new workers in the United States Immigrants perform key jobs in many industries

5 Current legal immigration system plagued by backlogs and delays Three kinds of backlogs: ▫Administrative: Not enough resources at CIS ▫Policy: Not enough visas available for family members ▫Security: No accountability for clearing names

6 Examples of family wait times within the legal system As of January 2007, a wife, husband or children of a Permanent Resident has a wait of almost five years (longer from Mexico) A U.S. citizen applying for a brother or sister has to wait 11 years; 22 years if from Philippines Adult unmarried children of US citizens must wait more than 5 years

7 Supply of and demand for workers do not match As of January 2005, 271,000 applications for employment- based green cards pending and DOL had backlog of 300,000 applications for labor certification Only 5,000 employment-based green cards each year to workers in less-skilled jobs Only 66,000 visa for less-skilled workers in seasonal, non- agricultural jobs like crab processing Current H1B visa program imposes arbitrary cap: limits researchers, scientists, tech experts

8 Underground economy punishes workers and families Deeply rooted: one-third of undocumented immigrants have lived here for 10 years or more; 1.8 million are children Undocumented immigrants come from everywhere Many ways to become undocumented Being punished for providing labor Harsh enforcement hurts everyone

9 Due process protections are being eroded 1996 IIRAIRA laws greatly expanded definition of “aggravated felony” to include non-violent crimes such as shoplifting; retroactive; deportable Also stripped immigration judges of ability to use their own discretion on individual cases Took away judicial review Post-9/11, Bush passed laws that allowed for mandatory and indefinite detention Immigration judges appointed on politics not law Denying bond to whole category of “suspected terrorists”

10 What is Comprehensive Immigration Reform? 7 components: ▫Enhance national security and safety with a sensible enforcement policy ▫Protect fundamental rights for all ▫Create a rational and human approach to the undocumented population ▫Keep American families together and reduce backlogs ▫Ensure future worker flows with full rights and protections ▫Allocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels ▫Promote immigrant integration

11 Obama Administration’s Views As a candidate, Obama pledged the need for immigration reform As a Senator, supported CIR bills that did not pass As President-Elect, established several transition teams on immigration issues; met with community groups Pledged an end to raids as we know them and has shifted focus on employers Recently, reiterated intent to introduce CIR legislation this year. Held bi-partisan meeting at White House in June 2009.

12 Challenges to Immigration Reform Economy and many pressing issues Anti-immigrant sentiment; rising in bad times Some immigrants who should care think immigration reform is only about one type of immigrant and doesn’t affect them Vocal minority much louder than the supportive majority Elected officials afraid to talk about the issue

13 What will it take to get CIR? YOU! Please sign up to write to your congressperson and tell them we need immigration reform Talk to people about the need for CIR—it will benefit ALL immigrant and refugee communities Become an organizational or individual member of OneAmerica to stay connected and make your voice heard

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