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Proposed Amendments to Senate Immigration Bill is But a Taste of What is to Come

LatinaLista — When the Senate first passed their version of the immigration reform bill, Latino groups and organizations who advocate for undocumented immigrants, urged us all to politely applaud the effort and be thankful that SOMETHING was put together and passed.
“We’ll worry about the details later” was an often heard refrain coming from Latino leaders who wanted to show the Senate how much the Latino community was behind them in getting immigration reform off the media talk show circuit and onto the Congressional floor.
Well, worrying about the details has arrived and by the looks of it, if this is what is being proposed by people supposedly sympathetic to undocumented immigrants, what will happen in the House of Representatives is sure to turn this country upside down.

This morning, the National Council of La Raza sent out an Action Alert to everyone outlining why it was imperative for us all to call our Senators and urge them to vote against the latest shockwaves this bill is triggering.
It seems there are two amendments that some Congressmen wanted to add to this bill. As the NCLR describes:

. The Cornyn amendment would make the entire Z visa program, introduced in the Senate bill, essentially unworkable for the Latino community. Many of the people who are undocumented because they crossed the border illegally, overstayed their visas, or used false social security numbers would be ineligible for the Z visa that could eventually lead people to legal permanent residency. We need a workable program that really fixes our broken immigration system by dealing with the undocumented population.
2. The Coleman amendment would outlaw state and local policies that prevent employees – including police and health and safety workers – from inquiring about the immigration status of those they serve if there is “probable cause” to believe the individual being questioned is undocumented. This is unworkable, costly, would make many communities unsafe, and trumps on the rights of localities to determine how to maintain the safety in their cities.

Actually, the Cornyn amendment, at first glance, seems reasonable. It basically says that anyone who is a known gang member, sex offender or suspected terrorist should be barred from receiving any immigration benefit.

Sen. John Cornyn
Who can argue with that? Who would want to argue with that?
What I do take issue with are certain passages that leave too much open interpretation and just aren’t in touch with the reality of the situation. For example, the amendment would deny legalization of all those undocumented immigrants who came back into the United States after they were deported.
That would mean a lot of mothers and fathers who had to sneak back across to reunite with their children who were left behind when they were deported would be permanently barred from ever being legalized.
What parent wouldn’t defy a court order from any country if it separated them from their children?
What kind of parent would they be if they didn’t?
And the Coleman amendment giving state workers free reign to ask whomever they felt “looked” illegal to verify their citizenship status?
It goes without saying how potentially discriminating and insulting this amendment is to all those who “look” illegal.
Not to mention that there’s never been a more blatant example of taking ten steps back from the vision Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had for the day when people would be seen for the content of their character rather than for the color of their skin – or the accent in their speech.
As bad as these amendments are, they are good for one thing.
They are serving as the warm-up round for the bigger fight that is yet to come.

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  • Amanda
    May 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Okay, maybe at first glance, like you said, the Cornyn amendment could be acceptable, but I am someone who can and will argue with that. I am okay with the sex offender and even the suspected terrorist, although that is more gray, but the “known gang member” label is an all-too-common way for law enforcement officials to criminalize Latino youth without cause. It is too easy for police officers to brand kids with the “gang” label simply for a haircut or the way they dress without them having committed any crime whatsoever. And, the phrasing “known gang member” doesn’t even imply that this person has ever been charged with a crime. I would have to read the entire legislation, but I really have a problem with throwing the book at “gang” members, because much of the time these are not actually people who are well-connected in organized crime rings like the mafia or a prison gang, they are kids who are forced to live on the margins of society who end up in naturally formed groups that are then elevated to the status of a dangerous “gang”. There needs to be new language to differentiate these groups from truly dangerous criminal organizations.

  • Marisa
    May 25, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    You bring up a very valid point.
    I agree with you.
    I stand corrected.

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