Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Address Immigration Weaknesses to Preserve Human Rights

Now that the health care bill has been signed, it is time to move on to the next issue of debate: immigration reform. On Dec. 15, 2009, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act was introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). Moreover, about two weeks ago, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) discussed their draft for the Senate bill with President Obama. Both are necessary to maintain the U.S. commitment to human rights.

Contrary to what some might claim, the new bill would not be an easy escape for illegal immigrants. It calls for proposals that ensure that those who entered the country illegally are reprimanded. It would, however, protect unlawful immigrants in the workforce and the penal system, and provide them with a pathway to legalization.

There are six main parts to CIR ASAP: attention to border security, detention and enforcement; employment verification; visa reforms; a legalization program for the undocumented; recommendations for a stable and lawful American workforce; and the integration of new citizens into American society.

In short, it is a bill that recognizes the need to treat undocumented immigrants as human beings, not second-class individuals. The bill acknowledges the fact that the U.S. border with Mexico has for too long been left out of the purview of American society. Securing America’s borders is necessary, but we need to be more specific about those against whom we are securing our border. There is a difference between the drug trafficker supplying America’s drug demand and the woman fleeing domestic violence.

The legalization program is the most debated component of the bill. The critical question is whether people who broke the law to come to this country should be forgiven. In truth, the issue is more complicated than it might seem at first glance. We must consider the reasons so many immigrants cross our borders.

First, it is of the utmost importance to understand the longstanding and symbiotic relationship between the United States and Mexico. Both countries depend on their mutual trade of goods, services and laborers. But, within that relationship, there is trafficking of drugs, firearms, women and children. Hence, the border security component of the bill calls for an increase in personnel, training and facilities that will ensure that unwanted trade does not cross the border. The problem with this is that the militarization of our borders does not distinguish between the criminal and the non-criminal, or the drug trafficker and the child.

The situation can be modeled with the simple economics formula of supply and demand. American society wants drugs and weapons, employers want a cheap labor force and the lands outside of the United States will give it to them. There needs to be an equal effort outside and in our country to cut out the part of the relationship that is illegal, violent and cruel.

Furthermore, the path to legalization is crucial for those individuals who want to take advantage of higher education opportunities. Those who have arrived before the age of 16 have not committed a crime and have lived in the United States for at least five years would be covered under a separate bill under consideration – the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

Under the newly introduced bill, these minors will be able to apply for legal permanent resident status without paying a fine. Such individuals will then be able to receive in-state tuition, need-based Perkins loans, work-study assistance and student support services. Undocumented students already work and contribute to state taxes, without receiving benefits. The bill will allow them also to contribute to the economy, education, professional workforce, military and community organizations that will improve American society.

Undocumented minors who arrived in this country cannot be blamed for breaking the law because their situation is very different from the immigrant community as a whole. This distinction is important. Illegal minors enter the United States for a variety of reasons often beyond their control. For example, many are smuggled in or are fleeing gang persecution in their countries. To determine their future because of a move that they did not control is inhumane. It is curtailing children’s rights, an ideal that the United States has traditionally promoted. If America is to stand as a beacon for human, children’s and women’s rights worldwide, it must start bolstering those rights within its borders. The newest immigration bill to hit the floor of Congress is necessary if American rhetoric on human rights is going to have any bite.

Frances Dávila is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and the co-chair of MEChA de Georgetown.

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