August 17, 2007

This Shot At Immigrants Will Hit Us All In The Foot

Washington, DC – Earlier this year, an effort by Congress to fix our broken immigration system was thwarted when a Republican-led filibuster killed a bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal in the Senate. This may have been the best chance in years to fix our dysfunctional immigration system but, in the end, just 12 Republicans voted to allow the Senate to continue considering this issue, with the majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats choosing to kill it. By its announcement today, the administration has now embraced the full weight of an enforcement-only strategy. It will fail as an immigration policy—with disastrous economic, security, and civil rights consequences.

“The consequences for the economy will ripple out far beyond the individual immigrants who lose or change their jobs,” said Douglas Rivlin, a spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington. “Businesses may close or move off-shore because of the loss of workers and the costs of compliance while down-stream processing, shipping, and retailing businesses will also feel the impact. This will hurt many native-born workers who depend on these jobs – all so we can appear to be ‘getting tough.’”

With 75% of undocumented workers paying Social Security, Medicare, and other federal payroll taxes, by the Social Security Administration’s own estimates, this will be a big revenue hit for the federal government. The winners will be the fake document merchants; employers who cheat the tax man and undercut the competition by paying people under the table; and those who make their money exploiting vulnerable, scared immigrants with few if any rights.

“This first round is designed to drive over 1.4 million working, tax-paying immigrants off the books and underground, with many millions more to come,” Rivlin continued. “This plan will supercharge detention, and deportation, making it much easier for government abuses to go unchecked.” 

Simultaneously, the new plan turns more state and local police into federal civil immigration officers, driving a wedge between police and immigrants, undermining public safety and community policing strategies, while making domestic violence prevention and crime fighting more difficult.

“A crackdown on employers and ramped up enforcement combined with a functioning legal immigration system and a way for current workers to earn legal status would make sense, but Congress was too cowardly to fight for such a sensible policy,” Rivlin concluded.

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