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The President’s Immigration Reform Proposal: Not Good Enough

Commentary by Masao Suzuki |
January 30, 2013
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FL protesters demand 'legalization for all'.
FL protesters demand 'legalization for all'. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

San José, CA - On Jan. 29, one day after a group of eight U.S. Senators announced their bipartisan proposal for immigration reform, President Obama made his own proposal. While the President’s proposal was better than the bipartisan Senate proposal in several areas, in particular calling for recognition of same-sex partners of U.S. citizens or legal residents who are seeking legal residency; overall it offered the same approach of harsh treatment of the undocumented and a pro-business approach.

President Obama, like the eight senators, used language that called for more militarization of the border and suggesting that the undocumented are potential criminals and terrorists. One improvement is that the President’s proposal does not have an explicit “enforcement first” policy that could postpone legalization forever.

The president’s proposal, like the Senate's bipartisan proposal, also calls for more workplace enforcement. It also explicitly calls for a new Social Security card that comes close to being a national I.D. card.

In terms of legalization, the president and the senators are similar in terms of putting up many obstacles to legalization. One improvement is that the president’s proposal does not require employment to become a legal resident. However, the president’s proposal does require college or military service for faster legalization of undocumented who came as children. But with only about one of three Latino youth attending college, the other two-thirds will feel pressure to join the military in order to legalize and be forced into U.S. military intervention and wars abroad.

The president’s proposal does call for a temporary increase and more flexibility in family reunification visas to try to shorten the waiting lists. But he also calls for a permanent increase in employment visas and eliminating all country caps. Why not do the same for family visas, when it is clear that a long term reduction in undocumented immigration can only happen if there is a permanent increase in family reunification visas?

Last, but not least, there is no mention of stopping deportations now that a legalization proposal is under discussion. The president could have the power to slow or even stop the record levels of deportations that are breaking up families and sowing fear, especially in Chicano, Mexicano and Central American communities.

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