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The Immigration Reform Act of 2007: Not the Bill We Need

by Fight Back! Editors |
June 21, 2007
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In the spring of 2006 millions of Latino and other immigrants rallied against the Sensenbrenner bill, HR4437, that would have criminalized the undocumented. This movement called for legal residency for the undocumented and opposed the Bush administration’s call for a guest worker program.

In response to the largest mass movement in many years, the Bush administration has stepped up raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on workplaces and communities and at the same time held secret talks with Democratic and Republican senators to propose a ‘grand compromise’ called the Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

However the Immigration Reform Act is not the bill that Latino and other immigrants, their families and their communities need. The bill does not offer legal residency to the undocumented, but instead makes them guest workers. The proposed Z-visas for the undocumented require full-time employment (with some exceptions for school, health and natural disasters) so that an immigrant would lose their visa if they lost their job. Further, their spouses and children would also lose their visas in this event - so they can only stay in the United States as long as the head of household is working full time. The new Electronic Employment Verification System would make it easy for the government to find out if Z-visa holders are in fact working full time.

The Immigration Reform Act also changes the requirements to become a legal permanent resident. Today most immigrants get permanent residency by having a family member who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The new law would make employment, education and English-speaking more important than family ties in getting a legal permanent resident visa. This could actually make it harder for many of the undocumented to get legal residency. Today there are more than three million children who are U.S citizens with at least one undocumented parent. These parents would be eligible for legal residency as their children grow up. But under the new law they would all have to wait at least eight years and then the number of parents who could get legal residency would be limited to only 40,000 a year!

The law has a number of other bad points: the legalization parts would not go into effect unless the administration certifies to Congress that the borders are controlled, there are very high fees and fines - in the thousands of dollars - for each undocumented, the Z-visa holders would have to pass English and U.S. civics tests to keep their visas, there is a temporary guest worker program, more militarization of the U.S-Mexico border and criminalization of immigrants, an overall cut in the number of visa for legal permanent residents, the undocumented would have to return to their home countries to apply for legal residency, etc.

In the past the Bush administration has stepped up their raids and deportations when immigration bills are in Congress. These raids hit Latino workers and communities the hardest and reflected the racist sentiment that is behind much of the anti-immigrant forces today. These raids and deportations are dividing families and are part of a cold-hearted effort by the Bush administration to whip up support for his temporary guest worker proposal.

Now is the moment to insist on full equality for the undocumented. In the weeks and months ahead, Congress will be debating immigration reform. We need to turn up the heat and let them know that we want measures that move things in the direction of legalization . The time has come to break the chains of discrimination and oppression.

Stop the raids and deportations!
Legal residency, not guest worker visas!
Maintain and expand family reunification visas for legal permanent residency!