Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Monday, May 21, 2007

TAKE ACTION: Senate debates immigration "compromise" this week

This week, the Senate is debating the so-called "compromise" immigration bill sponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John Kyl (R-AZ). They're set to take action on it after Memorial Day weekend. I know how desperately our country needs immigration reform, but this bill contains several poison pills that are extremely detrimental to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community (see AILA's summary.)

This bill reduces the importance of the family reunification process that was created by the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. The landmark 1965 bill ended the race-based quota system, and has changed the face of our country so that it is not as common for people to gawk at an Asian person. It allowed us to flourish in numbers, and to reunite our families. The Kennedy-Kyl bill (yeah, kill this bill!) would substantially increase the current family backlog. Most importantly, it will be even harder for family members to reunite, and makes it incredibly hard to get a family member who is over 21 over here.

Another odious provision would create an employment-based system that awards points based on the immigrant's type of work, education, and English proficiency. The English proficiency portion will effectively benefit people coming from countries that already speak English, immigrants who have the means to learn.

The last poison pill is the creation of a guestworker program that would admit 400,000-600,000 foreign workers every year. No matter how hard they work, they would have almost no chance of becoming citizens, and could only stay for 2 years at a time, up to a total of 6 years. Thus they would become part of a permanent underclass of workers.

Although the bill provides a path to citizenship for almost 12 million undocumented immigrants, it would force them to pay fines of $5000 and to go back to their home countries. If you make less than minimum wage, $5000 is possibly half your annual income, and a steep price to pay.

With all these negatives, is it any wonder that George W Bush supports passage of this bill?!?!

As retiring Congressman Luis Gutierrez says, "The value of getting something done that is not worthy of our immigrants is not anything," he said in an alternatively smiling and table-pounding interview last week. "It's more important to get it done right."

So make your voice heard
Put in a quick call to your Senators (find their contacts here) or call 1-800-417-7666 and be automatically connected to the Senators representing the area code you're calling from. Be polite, give the legislative aide your name, zip code, and your message (points modified from AAJC):

Tell your Senator how important family-based immigration is to you. Let your senator know if you and your family benefited from family reunification.

  • “I urge you to support workable immigration reform legislation that values families, creates a path to citizenship and does not create an underclass of workers."

  • “I want a bill that:
    o Will bring in the entire family backlog;
    o Preserves the family categories; and
    o Maintains or expands the number of visas available for family reunification."

  • “I urge the Senator to oppose any legislation that would reduce the importance of family unification. Thank you.”

A quick call this week could mean the difference between devastating changes and real, progressive, and beneficial immigration reform.

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