Progressive Principles for Immigration Reform

Pre-empting Representative Luis Gutierrez and his ‘broad’ principles for immigration reform, Duke from Migra Matters–a co-founder of The Sanctuary–was front-paged over at Daily Kos today with the following principles for comprehensive immigration reform:

  1. End policies that rely only on enforcement and deterrence as the sole means of regulating migration.
  2. Address the root causes of immigration, and change US policy so that it doesn’t foster and produce conditions that force hundreds of thousands of people each year to leave their countries of origin in order to simply survive.
  3. Tie all current and future trade, military, and foreign aid agreements to not only worker protections both here and abroad, but also to their ability to foster economic progress and social justice for the working class and poor in sender nations.
  4. Formulate a reasonable, humane, fair and practical method for determining the levels of immigration going forward. Establish an independent commission free from the pressures of political expediency and business interests to review all the pertinent data and set admission numbers based on labor, economic, social, and humanitarian needs.
  5. Provide a path to legalization for all current undocumented immigrants living and working in the US, free of restrictions based on  country of origin, economic status, education, length of residency, or any other “merit based” criteria.
  6. Secure the borders by first ensuring that the vast majority of new immigrants have the ability and opportunity to legally enter the country through legal ports of entry by increasing the availability and equitable distribution of green cards. This would curtail the flow of migration through illegal channels. Only after that, should enforcement begin to ensure compliance, or any work to physically secure the border take place.
  7. Increase the focus on enforcement of all labor and employment laws. Increase penalties on employers who engage in unfair or illegal labor practices. Increase funding for government oversight and inspection.
  8. Opposition to a “temporary guest worker” program on the grounds that it provides no benefit to the American people or the immigrants themselves. It only provides big business with a disposable work force, and prevents immigrants from becoming a viable force in the workplace or full fledged members of society.
  9. Foster an immigration policy that strengthens the middle and working class through encouraging unionization, increased naturalization, and immigrant participation in the electoral process.
  10. Include the language of the DREAM Act that would allow children and young adults brought here as children, and raised in the US, a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education or community service. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. At the end of the long process, the young person can have the chance to become an American citizen or legal residency by completing their educations and contributing to society.
  11. Included the language of the Uniting American Families Act that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain permanent residency.
  12. Include the language of the AgJobs bill that seeks to relieve chronic farm labor shortages by supplying undocumented migrant agricultural workers a legal opportunity to enter the county and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship. It also bolsters labor rights and protects workers from exploitation.
  13. Repeal the sections of the 1996 law that redefined vast numbers of crimes as deportable offense when committed by immigrants. Imposing harsh penalties–often permanent exile–on  immigrants for minor criminal convictions like shoplifting or possession of marijuana.
  14. End permanent detention of all migrants for immigration violations not related to violent crimes.
  15. Simplify the immigration system by eliminating and condensing the hundreds of various visa classes into a smaller, more manageable, classification system that allows for not only easier navigation of the system, but better analysis of current immigration needs.
  16. End policies and programs that rely upon state and local law enforcement agencies to usurp the role of the federal government and engage in the enforcement of federal immigrations codes.
  17. Bring U.S. immigration law in line with international human rights law by reforming asylum and refugee law and strengthening protections for children, crime victims, and victims of human trafficking
  18. Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.
  19. Make family reunification simpler by expanding the “immediate family” classification to reflect the cultural realities of many non-western or traditional societies from which immigrants come.
  20. Allow immigration judges the discretion to treat cases on an individual basis and make decisions based on the specific the circumstances and outcomes of the case.
  21. Make punishments of immigration crimes commensurate with comparable crimes in other areas of the law. A misdemeanor or civil violation of immigration law should not carry with it a punishment that would be comparable to a felony in a criminal case.
  22. End, or raise, the per-country cap that favors smaller nations with fewer immigrant applicants over larger developing nations and those countries that have long traditional ties to the US.
  23. Update the Registry Date in Sec 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to reflect the historical pattern of periodic updating. Current date should be updated to 1996.
  24. Eliminate ‘crimes involving moral turpitude,’ an amorphous legal holdover from Jim Crow
  25. Recognize that immigration is a vital part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant America. It is what has set this nation apart from all others since its inspection. To close our borders to new immigrants is to cut off the lifeblood that has always made this nation grow and prosper.

This broad list of principles is certainly not for the faint-hearted or those who think that immigration enforcement is the only solution to the so-called problem of ‘illegal immigration.’ These principles offer a way to fix our present broken immigration system in the most just and humane way, taking into account both the push and pull factors of migration. It is probably a far cry from what Congress will end up adopting, but it is undoubtedly the single-payer of immigration reform.

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