New Immigration Proposal Denies Rights, Narrows Focus

(Washington, D.C.) – MALDEF President and General Counsel Ann Marie Tallman announced the Latino civil rights organization’s strong opposition to the enforcement-only immigration legislation introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

“The Sensenbrenner bill is more of the enforcement-only approach that has failed American communities, families and businesses over the past decade. It targets individuals who are present here due to labor demands and may be undocumented but are otherwise law-abiding and contributing residents. This ill serves the nation’s economic needs and ignores our country’s immigrant traditions,” said Tallman. “True leadership is needed to tackle this important issue affecting all of us. We call upon the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders to reject this approach and advance comprehensive reform that includes enforcement, an earned path to legalization for individuals to work and live lawfully, and labor law enforcement so that unscrupulous employers do not enjoy economic incentives through the exploitation of immigrant labor.”

Among the many anti-immigrant measures in the Sensenbrenner bill are provisions that would: 1) strip citizenship opportunities that are currently available to legal immigrants; 2) curtail fundamental Due Process rights in immigration proceedings; and 3) make it a criminal offense to remain in the country illegally after entering legally.

In addition, the bill would vastly expand the computer verification of all employees in the United States. “Expanding the so-called Basic Pilot Program will lead to errors and discrimination affecting U.S. citizens and legally authorized workers. It wrongly intrudes into union hiring halls and day laborer centers but does not keep unscrupulous employers from continuing to avoid the system,” observed MALDEF Senior Vice President for Law and Policy John Trasviña.

Eric M. Gutiérrez, Legislative Staff Attorney, noted that the bill not only fails to address core concerns in immigration reform, but at the same time, is both overbroad and dangerously narrow: “The bill limits the rights of legal immigrants while attempting to combat unauthorized immigration; yet it is unduly narrow because it focuses upon enforcement while ignoring the need for programs that would encourage legal immigration and naturalization.”

MALDEF continues to support the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bills sponsored by Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy and Representatives Jim Kolbe, Jeff Flake, and Luis Gutiérrez. These bills combine tough enforcement with realistic admission policies, have bipartisan support, and are workable.

A national nonprofit organization founded in 1968, MALDEF promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, higher education scholarships and when necessary, through the legal system.

[Press Release via email Dec. 7, 2005–gm]

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