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OneAmerica (Formerly Hate Free Zone) • Mission is to advance democracy and justice at the local, state and federal levels through building power in immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies • Started in 2001 after September 11, 2001 • Now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington • Focus on community organizing, policy advocacy, and leadership development • Also run the Washington New Americans Program • New membership program
Why reform the immigration system? Why is it “broken”? • Immigration laws are out of sync with 21st century economic realities • Current legal immigration system is plagued by backlogs and delays • Vast underground economy of vulnerable workers • Increasingly moved to harsh enforcement practices that hurt families but do not fix the problems • Decreasing due process protections
Immigration laws out of sync with 21st century realities • Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is either foreign-born or the child of someone who is foreign-born • In 2004, almost 15% of the labor force was foreign-born • Between 1996 and 2003, foreign-born workers accounted for 58% of the 11 million new workers in the United States • Immigrants perform key jobs in many industries
Current legal immigration system plagued by backlogs and delays • Three kinds of backlogs: • Administrative: Not enough resources at CIS • Policy: Not enough visas available for family members • Security: No accountability for clearing names
Examples of family wait times within the legal system • As of January 2007, a wife, husband or children of a Permanent Resident has a wait of almost five years (longer from Mexico) • A U.S. citizen applying for a brother or sister has to wait 11 years; 22 years if from Philippines • Adult unmarried children of US citizens must wait more than 5 years
Supply of and demand for workers do not match • As of January 2005, 271,000 applications for employment-based green cards pending and DOL had backlog of 300,000 applications for labor certification • Only 5,000 employment-based green cards each year to workers in less-skilled jobs • Only 66,000 visa for less-skilled workers in seasonal, non-agricultural jobs like crab processing • Current H1B visa program imposes arbitrary cap: limits researchers, scientists, tech experts
Underground economy punishes workers and families • Deeply rooted: one-third of undocumented immigrants have lived here for 10 years or more; 1.8 million are children • Undocumented immigrants come from everywhere • Many ways to become undocumented • Being punished for providing labor • Harsh enforcement hurts everyone
Due process protections are being eroded • 1996 IIRAIRA laws greatly expanded definition of “aggravated felony” to include non-violent crimes such as shoplifting; retroactive; deportable • Also stripped immigration judges of ability to use their own discretion on individual cases • Took away judicial review • Post-9/11, Bush passed laws that allowed for mandatory and indefinite detention • Immigration judges appointed on politics not law • Denying bond to whole category of “suspected terrorists”
What is Comprehensive Immigration Reform? • 7 components: • Enhance national security and safety with a sensible enforcement policy • Protect fundamental rights for all • Create a rational and human approach to the undocumented population • Keep American families together and reduce backlogs • Ensure future worker flows with full rights and protections • Allocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels • Promote immigrant integration
Obama Administration’s Views • As a candidate, Obama pledged the need for immigration reform • As a Senator, supported CIR bills that did not pass • As President-Elect, established several transition teams on immigration issues; met with community groups • Pledged an end to raids as we know them and has shifted focus on employers • Recently, reiterated intent to introduce CIR legislation this year. Held bi-partisan meeting at White House in June 2009.
Challenges to Immigration Reform • Economy and many pressing issues • Anti-immigrant sentiment; rising in bad times • Some immigrants who should care think immigration reform is only about one type of immigrant and doesn’t affect them • Vocal minority much louder than the supportive majority • Elected officials afraid to talk about the issue
What will it take to get CIR? • YOU! • Please sign up to write to your congressperson and tell them we need immigration reform • Talk to people about the need for CIR—it will benefit ALL immigrant and refugee communities • Become an organizational or individual member of OneAmerica to stay connected and make your voice heard