Immigration Reform Proposal Fails To Address Detention

In response to the Senate proposals and President Barack Obama’s vision for a new immigration process, Andrea Black, executive director of the Detention Watch Network, and other groups,  issued the following statements:

Andrea Black, Detention Watch Network:

“Four years ago, President Obama promised that he would work toward improving the immigration process for aspiring Americans; yesterday, he took the first step to deliver on that promise. After 15 years of advocating for improving access to legal information for immigrants in detention, expanding alternatives, and providing greater legal protections, the Detention Watch Network is encouraged that the president included these elements in his plan.

“President Obama also promised three years ago to correct the country’s flawed immigration detention system that is so massive and mismanaged that it has led to rampant due process and human rights abuses. In his proposal, President Obama highlighted the need to reduce detention costs. We are encouraged by his words and are hopeful that it will result in a dramatic reduction of the number of people presently incarcerated in our immigration gulag. But we also remain realistic and know that this will only be fully realized if mandatory detention laws are eliminated. Currently, 70 percent of immigrants are in detention due to these laws, which means that despite the president’s expressed vision, neither ICE nor any judge has the power to release them to their families and communities. This must be addressed.

“We are also discouraged that despite this, President Obama began his speech with a focus on enforcement. Neither the White House’s nor Senate’s plans respond to years of community outrage about border and interior enforcement programs that have separated families, stripped people of due process rights, and created serious human rights abuses.

“It is time to align our immigration policies with our country’s values: the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Immigration laws must be based on the fundamental rights of due process and a fair day in court, liberty of the person and freedom from arbitrary detention, and  the protection of refugees, and the unity of the family.

“We are committed to working with the administration, Congress, and ICE to ensure these proposed reforms will uphold these fundamental rights and result in an elimination of mandatory detention.”

President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz: 

“The goal of achieving federal immigration reform in 2013 that will provide legal protection for the millions of hardworking immigrants who have been raising families and contributing to the development of our economy and our society received a significant boost today. President Obama directly challenged all of us to put aside exclusionary xenophobia and to recognize our common immigrant heritage and our common mission of serving family and country. The President called upon congressional leadership to move swiftly toward enacting reform that would protect peaceful immigrants and provide a pathway to citizenship. By recognizing the negative impact of having so many unprotected workers in our economy and contrasting the positive contributions that immigrants have made and will make with full integration, the President captured the importance of reform to the entire nation.

After this boost of national leadership for immigration reform, MALDEF looks forward to working to ensure swift enactment of legislation that heightens our nation’s fidelity to its most important constitutional principles, including a shift to smarter and fairer enforcement, incorporation of broad protections against employment and other economic discrimination, and a future immigration system that is equitable and respectful of civil and human rights.”

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“The president’s announcement … is a clear indication that he intends to champion this cause, and it is certainly heartening to see him act firmly to fulfill the promise he made to the Hispanic community during his campaign,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.  “His announcement today, coupled with yesterday’s Senate proposal, has turned the corner on this issue, building momentum and motivating lawmakers to put politics aside and get this important work done.  Both parties now agree that reform is the necessary thing to do—and the right thing to do.

“Among the most encouraging developments is that there is now consensus that a roadmap to citizenship must be the centerpiece of any viable piece of legislation put forward.  Even more heartening is that the president’s plan contains a straighter path to citizenship for new Americans than yesterday’s Senate proposal.  We are also very glad to see that his plan embraces the recommendations outlined by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose principles should be a guiding light in the debate.  Specifically, we are pleased to see that the president’s platform promotes a system that respects all American families, including our LGBT brothers and sisters.

“Additionally, we want to ensure that we keep in mind the health needs of workers, children and families who stand to benefit from immigration reform, and we intend to work closely with all parties to achieve that goal.  A rational solution to modernizing our immigration system and making it fair and equitable is on the horizon.  We urgeWashingtonto continue working together to make those critical changes a reality.”

Ai-Jen Poo, NDWA Director:

We applaud the President for his commitment to creating a clear and accessible roadmap to citizenship for the millions of aspiring Americans currently living and working in this country. But this road needs to be open to all who dream of a better life in theUnited States—not just those with advanced degrees. And we need the President’s continued leadership to make the dream a reality. Millions of new American immigrants work in this country every single day, caring for our children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It is imperative that the domestic workforce be given the chance to step out of the shadows and continue the work they do every day to make all work in this nation possible. The demand for these workers is growing and they represent an amazing opportunity to strengthen our economy and transform the way we care for ourselves and each other. Any comprehensive, successful immigration policy needs to expand opportunity for all rather than selectively applying our nation’s values.

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