According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are currently 11 million undocumented persons residing in the United States. Each year, another 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented persons arrive in the United States by either crossing the U.S.-Mexico border or by staying in the country beyond the expiration of their visa. The large majority of the undocumented population works in vital industries important to the U.S. economy, including the agriculture, construction, and service industries. Because of their undocumented status, these workers often experience exploitation in the workplace and other forms of discrimination. Because of a lack of available employment and family-based visas in the U.S. immigration system, many are forced to cross the border with unscrupulous smugglers in dangerous conditions. Since 1993, more than 2800 migrants have perished in the deserts of the American Southwest.
Since 1993, the U.S. government has spent approximately $25 billion on border enforcement initiatives and has tripled the number of Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. During the same period, the rate of migrant deaths in the desert has nearly tripled and the number of undocumented persons in the country has almost doubled. Clearly, a more comprehensive approach to the immigration crisis in our nation is needed.
In January, 2004, President George W. Bush announced his support of the creation of a temporary worker program ("guest worker" program) which would "match willing workers with willing employers." Since that time, numerous bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress, including the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 (S. 1033, H.R. 2330), which would make important and useful reforms in the U.S. legal immigration system.
In December, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, an enforcement-only bill which includes many overly broad and punitive provisions targeted toward both legal and illegal immigrants. Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives that the legislation would bring "serious and severe consequences for immigrants and the nation."
In January, 2003, the U.S. Catholic bishops outlined principles for comprehensive immigration reform in their pastoral statement, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope. They stated that any just immigration reform proposal should address the root causes of migration, such as global poverty, and should include the following elements: 1). a broad-based legalization of the undocumented; 2). a temporary worker program with appropriate protections for both U.S. and foreign workers; 3). changes to the family-based immigration system to reduce waiting times for family reunification; and 4). restoration of due process for immigrants.
On July 19, 2005, Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, bishop of San Bernardino and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a statement in support of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S1033, HR 2330), stating that it "most closely comports with principles outlined by the U.S. bishops."
What You Can Do
- Contact your Senators and ask them to support S. 1033, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced by Senator John McCain (R-Az.) and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)
- Contact your Representatives and either thank them for voting against H.R. 4437 or express your disappointment for their support of H.R. 4437.
- Look for more information on the Justice for Immigrants website, www.justiceforimmigrants.org.
Kevin Appleby 202-541-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org