US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Massive demonstration in Washington for immigration reform

Father Tom Joyce CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Many immigrants and friends will gather this Sunday on the Washington Mall to demonstrate and put pressure on President Barack Obama to get moving on comprehensive immigration reform. Among the ordinary citizens, the advocates, the unionists, and the clergy, there are expected to be a substantial number of undocumented. Some will be there anonymously, hiding in the crowd. But some of the younger undocumented, brought here as young children and educated in our schools, will be there with an “in-your-face” attitude. They will not be hiding (see Los Angeles Times ).

The demonstration is not going unnoticed. President Obama has met with Senators and immigration advocates only this week. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is planning one of his “crime sweeps” in Phoenix as his own “in-your-face” response (Arizona Republic). But more significantly Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay  Graham (R-SC), who have been working on legislation for months, co-wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post outlining their approach to immigration reform. Schumer is chair of the immigration subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Graham the ranking minority member.

They admit the current immigration system is “broken” and they propose to replace it with something more “rational” set on “four pillars":

  • The first would be a biometric Social Security card that all seeking to work in the U.S. must present in seeking employment. This already has brought howls from the civil libertarians, since it smacks of an “internal passport.” Employers who hire the undocumented will suffer penalties.
  • The second is a step up in border and interior security. This comes at a moment when Secretary Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security has stopped work on the “virtual fence” being erected in Arizona by Boeing (see New York Times article ).
  • The third pillar is a temporary worker program. This will be vigorously opposed by labor unions, since it’s framed to encourage a creaming of overseas talent at the expense of home-grown talent. One thing it does propose is a green card (permanent residence) for low-skill workers after successive years picking our crops and digging our ditches.
  • The last pillar is “a tough and fair path to legalization” for the 11 million undocumented already here.

It’s quite clear that there will be differences on all four pillars – maybe even equaling the course of health care reform.. So far there has been no Republican who has joined Lindsey Graham, and, since the GOP is infatuated with Tea Partiers and the New Patriots, few are likely to come forward. The unions are insisting on a commission to keep any guest worker program honest. The U.S. bishops are likely to fault the Schumer-Graham approach because it is not organized around the real need in reform – family unification. But at least there is some movement. Let’s hope its progress does not experience the agony of health care reform.

The mess in immigration court gets worse
A non-governmental study of immigration courts finds that 228,421 immigrants are waiting to have their cases heard. The delays average 439 days and are as high as 713 days in Los Angeles and 612 days in Boston. An axiom of American law is “justice delayed is justice denied.” These delays wreak havoc on immigrant families and weigh heavily by those held in detention (see Washington Post article ).