Arab Americans Voice Disappointment with President’s Immigration Plan

Washington, DC | April 11, 2007 | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is extremely disappointed in the latest White House plan for comprehensive immigration reform. On April 9, President George W. Bush laid out his immigration plan to a group of Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona, although many details of the White House plan were leaked prior to his speech.
The Arab-American community is deeply concerned with the lack of due process in our immigration system and the President’s plan failed to address this matter entirely. The last major immigration overhaul was in 1996 and it stripped many aspects of due process from our immigration system. Since that time, ADC, and many other organizations, have been actively involved in trying to restore and include due process into our immigration system. Any bill passed by Congress must include: judicial discretion for individual cases; an end to expedited removal; uphold Supreme Court decisions on indefinite detention; and end unfair punishment for minor civil offences. In fact, during his speech in Yuma, President Bush bragged about speeding up deportations for “non-Mexicans.”
Also omitted from the White House plan was any mention of ending the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, also known as ‘Special Registration,’ which has unfairly targeted Arab Americans and continues to be a mark of shame on our nation’s image domestically within the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian American communities and also abroad in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia. While most immigration violations are classified as civil violations, violations of NSEERS are considered criminal offences despite their civil nature.
Despite President Bush’s assertions that family values are an important component of immigration, his proposal would reduce, if not potentially eliminate, many forms of family sponsored immigration, particularly for children over the age of 21. Certain forms of family-sponsored immigration would be replaced with corporate or industry based sponsorship. The temporary worker program, envisioned by the President, would not allow workers to bring their families to this country. Workers who qualify for a ‘Z visa,’ the visa allocated to temporary workers, can apply for three-year permits. These three-year permits cost $3,500 and can be renewed indefinitely, although workers must return to their home countries to complete the renewal process. To actually adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents, immigrants would have to return to their home country and pay a $10,000 fine.
ADC is concerned that the proposed temporary workers plan would create a permanent underclass of workers unable to assimilate into America and adjustment of their status would be cost-prohibitive. The President plan fails to include a path to citizenship which voters and immigrant communities have clearly called for. Once again, we would be creating a new system that will only drive more immigrants into the shadows, thus decreasing the security of our country.
During the last election, immigration played a significant role as many members of Congress who supported enforcement-only measures were voted out of office. Current leaders in the House and Senate should be mindful that immigration advocates are carefully watching how they proceed with the immigration reform debate. Voters clearly do not expect that last year’s anti-immigrant, punitive measures to be re-introduced.
ADC calls upon Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that reunites families, restores due process to the immigration system, includes worker protections and provides a path to citizenship.

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