ProsThe overriding positive of S.1348, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, is that it provides an earned path to legal residency for the 12 to 15 million immigrants illegally present in the in U.S. before 2007.
(See quick-reading summary of major provisions of S.1348, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, at page one of this article.)
Poverty-stricken immigrants and their families were lured by illegal jobs at U.S. corporations and in the agricultural industry. In their home countries, they were usually unemployed and destitute.
And undocumented workers, grateful for any job, have worked for below-market wages, minimal or no benefits and under poor working conditions, therefore enabling employers to make higher business profits.
The Clinton and Bush administrations turned a blind political eye to illegal immigration practices as a means to support corporate America. (For more info, see Why the U.S. Allows Illegal Immigration.)
Undocumented workers and their families live in constant fear of apprehension, mistreatment and imprisonment, which affects every aspect of their lives, from housing and medical care to education, transportation and even grocery shopping.
Freedom from Fear and Mistreatment
S.1348 would set these immigrants free from fear, to emerge from the back alleys and shoddiest housing in America and beyond the reach of smugglers, blackmailers, human traffickers and harassers.
Like the African-origin slaves set free by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, this heavily Latino underclass of unskilled, poorly-paid U.S. workers would be freed from the shackles of unequal treatment as a human beings.
And that is what America’s noble ideals of freedom and equality are all about.
On May 17, 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) proudly proclaimed of this bill, "Politics is the art of the possible, and the agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders, and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America."
Problem is... the negatives of S.1348, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, are so numerous and so virulent, that they may cause Congress to fail to pass this legislation.
ConsBelow are a few of the most egregious negatives of S.1348 .
Guest Worker Program
S.1348 sets a guest worker program for low-skilled labor that creates a separate class of workers with few protections granted to other U.S. workers and little hope for permanent residency.
The New York Times dubs S.1348's guest worker program as "massive indentured servitude."
And the guest worker program includes provisions that are overly onerous to fulfill. One is a mandate that between the 3 renewable 2-year visa periods, the worker must return for a year to his home country where he may have neither job nor home.
Another is the severe limitation on workers' ability to bring spouses or minor childen with them while they labor in the U.S.
An amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingman (D-NM) was passed to reduce to reduce the annual cap on workers from 600,000 to 200,000. An amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to strip it from S.1348 was defeated by a vote of 64-31.
Retention and Internment Facilities
S.1348 provides “resources” for the daily detention of 27,500 illegal immigrants.
Internment centers are privatized warehouses for immigrants awaiting wrongful detention appeals or pending deportation proceedings. Like the hotel industry, the corporations running the centers make profits by keeping the centers at full occupancy.
While in internment centers, immigrants have virtually no rights. Like slaves in pre-civil War days, detainees are usually unable to communicate with children and spouses. Identification is often stripped from their possession.
Reports abound of denials of medical care, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, lost ID documents, lack of access to info, and callous treatment. (For more info, read Lost in Detention published by The New Mexican on May 20, 2007.)
Impossible Path to Citizenship
S.1348 creates an unachievable path to citizenship for the majority of formerly illegal immigrants, resulting in millions of low-wage earning U.S residents without voting rights.
The legislation requires upfront payment of $5,000 in fines plus $2,000 in “processing fees,” unthinkable sums for poverty-level earners. It requires the head of household (usually the wage earner) to return to their home country, and then reenter the U.S. Few could afford to return to their home countries, and, if they did, they would likely lose their jobs.
And even if all these and other conditions are met, the waiting period is estimated to be 8 to 14 years.
Where It StandsIn early June 2007, S.1348 is mired in U.S. Senate backroom negotiations, and the bill hotly debated in the media and public forums.
No one knows whether or not S.1348 will pass both houses of Congress, despite the urgings of President Bush and a determined bipartisan band of senators led by Sen. Kennedy and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Another vital area of contention that must be resolved is the proposed new U.S. approach to selecting future immigrants.
Past Immigration Goal: Family Unification
In the past, America immigration policy was tied to the humanitarian goal of family unification.
The 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868 in reaction to the abolition of slavery and its abuse of families, declared all children born in this country of illegal immigrants to be U.S. citizens. This was reconfirmed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. As a result, parents of children who are U.S. citizens often stay in this country as legal residents (i.e. green cards holders).
Currently, there is no limit on the number of green cards that can be issued to foreign spouses and children of workers holding U.S. work visas, or for foreign-born parents of minor children.
S.1348 Immigration Goal: Support Corporations, Not Families
S.1348 radically shifts U.S. immigration to skills-based from family-based goals, and places a cap on all permanent residency green cards issued annually.
Objecting to this change, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) wryly commented to the media, “For those who often speak about family values, this is your opportunity to match your rhetoric with your action.“
Briefly, the cap for H-1B visas, used by corporations and universities to import higher wage-earning scientists, computer specialists and the like, will be raised from 65,000 to as much as 180,000 annually.
The remainder of green cards would be issued based on a point system that places highest values on graduate and post-graduate education; achievement in technology, science and math; areas of high labor demand; and English language proficiency.
Family ties would be given scant consideration, and then, mainly for spouses and minor children. Under S.1348, even U.S. citizens would encounter difficulties bringing elderly, foreign-born parents into the country.
At this writing, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) have introduced an amendment to eliminate limits on the number of green cards for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.