The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids in Hispanic communities; the recent Justice Department report that Hispanics are subjected to excessive force by the police; the constant anti-Hispanic drum beat from the rightwing media; the Minutemen; loss of Constitutional and Human Rights; biased laws being drafted by municipalities; and finally the Gestapo-like attack by the Los Angeles police against a peaceful group of May 1 marchers and media at MacArthur Park; the Hispanic community is under attack. It is under these circumstances that, next week, the U.S. Senate will begin the debate on a comprehensive immigration reform.
The Senate Judicial Committee will take up the discussion on immigration Wednesday, May 16, when they will discuss the latest immigration bill called the STRIVE Act (HR 1645), proposed by Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and now co-sponsored by 60 other House representatives, and various other bills crafted on immigration. At present, Senators Harry Reid, Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Ken Salazar and Robert Menéndez are behind closed doors, pounding out their version of an immigration bill.
Following the war in Iraq, immigration has been the focus of the country with one side calling for the deportation of all undocumented and the closing of the border. While on the side of the issue, there has been the call for an open border. Somewhere in between these two extreme points of views, a bill will come forth.
For the Hispanic community, for the working immigrant community, they are looking forward to a comprehensive, humanistic bill that recognizes their contributions to the United States, deals with family unification and provides a path for legalization. But it appears highly unlikely that these needs will be satisfactorily addressed from the bills that have been presented so far. The proposed bills focus on border security and criminalization aspects of immigration.
Even the Democratic sponsored bill called the STRIVE (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) Act of 2007 offers some positive news for immigrants (the DREAM Act, the AgJOBS Act, and Strengthening American Citizenship Act), there is a heavy focus on dealing with immigrants as a security threat, and with a criminal-driven approach.
We have long held the position that as long as the United States deals with the immigrant community from the perspective that this issue is a police/criminal issue, they will never effectively be able to deal with immigration. When the lawmakers view the issue of immigration as a workers issue, an issue of jobs and the economy, a humanistic point of view, then they will be able to move toward a comprehensive immigration reform.
Whatever bill comes out of the Senate, it will take bipartisan support to have a chance to become law. This fact alone makes it appear unlikely that a bill will be passed. Primarily because the conservative Republicans have drawn a line in the sand that they will not cross, like any form of legalization or family unification. They will be hard pressed to pass a comprehensive bill and hand a moral victory to the Democratic Party, and during a presidential election year no less!
And with President Bush’s poll numbers at an all-time low it is unlikely they will follow his lead on the immigration issue.
The Judiciary Committee has said they will pass an immigration bill by June. The bill then goes to the House floor and a vote is projected for July.