Tuesday, June 26, 2007

S. 1639: Harry Reid Reveals True Attitude toward Immigrants

The Senate, at the strong urging of President Bush, today decided to vote on a revised comprehensive immigration bill, one that puts current and future immigrants at more risk than they are at present and that gives more funds and authority to the security state. Harry Reid, the Senate's Majority Leader and a nominal Democrat joins Bush in wanting the Senate to pass the bill by the end of this week, which would be a disaster since a vast majority of the public has no idea of what it includes. Voting on this omnibus, highly complex measure that will have deep and permanent impact on hundreds of millions of people without feedback from a presently un- and misinformed public makes a mockery of our so-called representative democracy.

Senator Kennedy and many so-called liberal Senators are supporting S. 1639 against the advice of liberal immigration law centers (e.g., the National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the San Francisco Legal and Immigrant Education Network are among the legal rights groups opposing the bill). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in his letter to President Bush complained about the lack of Republican support for the bill in the Senate: "almost 80% of the Democratic caucus voted to move the bill forward, while only 14% of the Republican caucus did so."
Ironically, the Republicans and Democrats, respectively, are taking the opposite positions from that of their ostensible constituencies. The Republicans should be enthusiastically endorsing the bill (and they do now seem to be lining up for Bush), and the Democrats initiating a filibuster, or simply using their majority to defeat the bill, because Democrats should not want to associate themselves with the Nuremberg Laws.

To be clear, Reid is not just accommodating the White House, but is actively advancing the agenda of a reactionary President, going so far as to state, "this is the President's bill." During the first debate over cloture, Reid said,

I am saying to everyone here, I would do my very best to have more Republican amendments than Democratic amendments. I know some of my colleagues don't want me to say that, but I would be willing to do that, with a time certain for passing this bill. Hopefully, we can do that in the next several weeks.
Standing on the Senate floor,

recognizing his first effort to pass S. 1348 was about to be defeated his vowed a misguided effort to use the authority of the Democratic leadership: "But in my office, about 7 o'clock tonight, a number of we Democratic Senators met there and made a commitment to each other that we are going to do everything we can to pass this." After the initial vote for cloture on S. 1348 lost, Reid reiterated, "I want to get this bill done," and said he was going to keep trying this session to pass the same bill, a move he himself conceded was highly unusual. Why is a Democratic Senator doing his best to do the dirty work of the most unpopular President in modern history? During the debate in early June, when it was clear Reid wouldn't have the votes, he said,

There are some really good things in this bill. The DREAM Act--I will not belabor the point, but I will just briefly say that in Smith Valley, NV, a little mining community, a number of years ago, this beautiful child came up to me, a senior in high school. I knew she wanted to talk to me, and she did. She said: I am the smartest kid in my class. I can't go to college. My parents are illegal. What am I going to do, Senator?

A young man in Reno, NV, a small-in-stature Hispanic--he would be the master of ceremonies at events. He could sing. He could talk. It took me a number of years to realize he was in the country but he had bad papers. He couldn't drive a car. I haven't seen him for a number of years, don't know what has happened to him. He couldn't go to college. Under this legislation which is now no longer on the Senate floor, he could have had a pathway to legalization. He already knew English. He spoke better English than I do. Get a job, pay taxes, stay out of trouble--I am confident he would do that--pay some penalties and some fines to go to the back of the line, to be able to come out of the shadows, get the ability to drive a car. But we are not going to be able to do that for him now.

But this bill Reid is supporting is unlikely to do this for these folks either. Supporting S. 1639 in the name of the folks above is like supporting a hike in the estate tax on behalf of Donald Trump, Jr., except the Republicans would never be so confused as to do something like this.

Buried very, very deep in a bill that includes English as a national language (section 702), helicopter patrols, and exemptions for Hurricane Katrina victims (on the principle that exposure to a country's natural disaster should mean citizenship?) is the portion Reid says will help the young man who could sing, the Immigrant Accountability Act of 2007. Here are the main provisions of Section 622:

    (A) Qualifying employment.—

(i) In general.—Subject to clauses (ii) and (iii), the alien has performed at least—

(I) 5 years of agricultural employment in the United States for at least 100 work days per year, during the 5-year period beginning on the date of enactment of the AgJobs Act of 2007; or

(II) 3 years of agricultural employment in the United States for at least 150 days

work days per year, during the 3-year period beginning on such date of enactment.

(ii) Four year period of employment.—An alien shall be considered to meet the requirements of clause (i) if the alien has performed 4 years of agricultural employment in the United States for at least 150 work days during 3 years of those 4 years and at least 100 work days during the remaining year, during the 4-year period beginning on such date of enactment.

(iii) Extraordinary circumstances.—In determining whether an alien has met the requirement of clause (i), the Secretary may credit the alien with not more than 12 additional months to meet the requirement of that clause if the alien was unable to work in agricultural employment due to—

(I) pregnancy, injury, or disease, if the alien can establish such pregnancy, disabling injury, or disease through medical records;

(II) illness, disease, or other special needs of a minor child, if the alien can establish such illness, disease, or special needs through medical records; or

(III) severe weather conditions that prevented the alien from engaging in agricultural employment for a significant period of time.

Pregnancy, disease, and global warming aside, the requirements pose unfair burdens aliens, mandating behaviors that could never be imposed on native born citizens, who may withdraw from the labor force for long stretches of time and be supported by relatives or have informal sources of income without their creating burdens on the state and of course without risking deportation. Moreover, there is no good justification for allowing native born residents to use state benefits and not those born elsewhere.

In addition, compared with S. 1348, S. 1639 offers even more reasons for making longterm residents ineligible for citizenship, and hence makes the vigorous support of S. 1639 by the Democratic leadership even more perplexing:

3) Grounds for denial of adjustment of status.—The Secretary may deny an alien granted a Z–A visa or a Z–A dependent visa an adjustment of status under this Act and provide for termination of such visa if—

(A) the Secretary finds by a preponderance of the evidence that grant of the Z–A visa was the result of fraud or willful misrepresentation (as described in section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)); or

(B) the alien—

(i) commits an act that makes the alien inadmissible to the United States under section 212, except as provided under subsection (c)(4);

(ii) is convicted of a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors committed in the United States; or

(iii) is convicted of an offense, an element of which involves bodily injury, threat of serious bodily injury, or harm to property in excess of $500.

This last provision means that someone with a car accident on her record will be ineligible for citizenship.

Even the criminal conviction standard is unfair. If this rule were applied to U.S. born citizens, 5.3 million native born U.S. Americans would be deported.

Also, alien convicts who have served their time are related to those who are law-abiding citizens.Deporting a legal resident's relatives and friends is not only a punishment to the offender, but directly harms innocents. Finally, 80% of the U.S. public favor allowing convicted felons to vote (still not allowed in many states), the highest privilege of citizenship. If the principle that having served time does not render one unfit to vote is endorsed then a reasonable inference is that, save the prejudice of nativism, an alien having served prison time should not be precluded from obtaining citizenship.

And since S. 1348 was introduced, the bill was amended to make life even more miserable for people such as the individuals Reid mentioned above. S. 1173, proposed by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and passed by unanimous consent of the Senate, requires someone who is denied legal status and returns, be "imprisoned not less than 60 days and not more than 2 years." So if there's a family emergency and the guy who had "bad papers" returns, he gets a mandatory prison sentence. Aliens who are here after their request for legalization is denied and have criminal records, including misdeamors, will have automatic prison sentences of up to ten years, simply for the crime of being in the U.S. and in addition to the time they already served for their convictions. Also added was S. 1168, agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent, including a provision to "construct reinforced fencing along not less than 700 miles of the southwest border where fencing would be most practical and effective and provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border." In a move to treat children like political pork, the Senate accomodated their colleague Akaka's amendment to "exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas," supported by his colleagues, 87-9, the nays all Republican.

In addition, one of the most curious amendments, passed 67-26, was to "To establish commissions to review the facts and circumstances surrounding injustices suffered by European Americans, European Latin Americans, and Jewish refugees during World War II," in particular the treatment of people in European detention facilities after WWII."

Kennedy himself introduced a last minute amendment passed on June 6, 2007 pertaining to new punishments for gang members and stating that drunk driving conviction means the resident is ineligbible for citizenship: "DRUNK DRIVERS.--Any alien who has been convicted of 1 felony for driving under the influence under Federal or State law, for which the alien was sentenced to more than 1 year imprisonment, is inadmissible.'' (This one seems an especially literary or perhaps galling hypocrisy...)

And as discussed earlier, S. 1250 also passed, allowing for the unrestricted sharing of private
information among government agencies.

All these provisions are now written into the law of S. 1639, and then some, to be analyzed later. Here's the link to this incredibly perfect picture indicating Reid's contempt for Democratic values.

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