Senate Passes Immigration Reform, House Conservatives Snarl

With the US Senate finally passing their “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, we’ve moved a bit closer to a showdown between the ultraconservatives and pretty much everyone else. Somehow we’re supposed to be happy that the House bill is “just a negotiating position.” If that’s the case, the Senate may already have given up too much. It is a sign of how crazy things are that the “pragmatic” approach calls for deporting around 1 million people.

But I’m nothing if not pragmatic. And I think it’s worth reposting the statement of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on this matter:

With this bill (S 2611), the Senate has fundamentally recognized that our nation needs the hard work that immigrants perform; that mass deportations are both impossible and un-American; and that the only solution to our broken immigration laws is to reduce immigration backlogs, reunite families, and offer a path for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and eventually become citizens.

As currently written, however, the Senate bill contains many unworkable and even counterproductive provisions:

· Creating three categories of the undocumented based on length of stay would leave millions of immigrants out of the process, subjecting them to harsh enforcement procedures that would drive them further underground and beginning the problem all over again, and would encourage massive document fraud.
· The 370 miles of border fence, costing $1 million a mile, would be an expensive and offensive symbol, one that would be particularly ineffective when 40- 45% of the undocumented in the U.S. arrive here legally with visas.
· Federalizing local police departments to enforce immigration laws would guarantee that immigrants will not report crimes or serve as witnesses.
· Eliminating judicial discretion and humanitarian exceptions to deportation cases would guarantee the brutal separation of families in the future.

The Senate bill now goes to a Conference Committee to be reconciled with the House bill, HR 4437. The bill could become substantially better–or substantially worse. As the Senate debate indicates, no workable reform can pass without a majority of Democratic support. We urge Speaker Hastert and the House Republicans to reach out to Democrats to craft a workable solution, and to ensure that the Conference Committee improves this bill. If the unworkable portions of the legislation are not fixed, then we will work to defeat it.

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