The final Senate vote on the immigration bill has just been cast. This is a historic moment for the United States, but there remain serious problems with this flawed bill as it stands today. The Senate bill falls short of ensuring fundamental due process protections for all aspiring citizens, and disregards the safety and wellbeing of immigrant communities nationwide by including extreme and punitive measures that leave individuals vulnerable to racial profiling, automatic deportation and human and civil rights abuses along the borders. As the legislation moves on to the House, there are critical protections that must be guaranteed and expanded.
We cannot accept more extreme measures disguised as bipartisan immigration reform. Attempts to further marginalize and alienate aspiring citizens will not be tolerated. Creating a common-sense immigration system that allows people to become citizens, pay taxes, and be full contributing members of our community will do more for America than inhumane, expensive, and impractical approaches like trying to deport millions of people.
We need Congress to create a fair and inclusive path that allows immigrants to maintain and pursue legal status rather than expand the number of reasons to deport them. The millions of mothers, fathers, DREAMers, business owners and U.S. armed service veterans must all be guaranteed the right to have the circumstances of their cases considered and heard. We don't need Congress to pass one-size-fits all rules for automatic detention and deportation that would permanently banish someone like Ivon Matamoros, a DREAMer whose conviction for using a false social security number to work will likely exclude her from the path to citizenship or someone like Howard Bailey, a longtime Green card holder and veteran who was deported because the immigration judge was not allowed to consider the individual circumstances of his case under the current law.
The House now has an opportunity to address unfair policies in our broken immigration system left unaddressed by the Senate. Members must demonstrate their commitment to due process by protecting people like Ivon and Howard, along with the hundreds of thousands of others like those profiled on IJN's website who face the daily threat of being locked up for years in immigration jail, torn apart from their families, and sent to a country they may have never known.
We must stand up and tell members of the House to guarantee that no one--not longtime residents of the United States or recent immigrants--should be thrown in jail without a hearing before a judge or a lawyer to represent them. We need to demand that our representatives make the moral, fair, and practical decision that judges should not be required to detain and deport veterans, DREAMers, parents, refugees, and others without weighing the circumstances of their cases.
Far too many concessions have already been made in the Senate bill. We cannot endorse and enforce punitive measures that perpetuate the broken policies of our current immigration system and separate families. The path forward must be fair and inclusive. American voters are counting on it.
The Immigrant Defense Project is a member of the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer's Guild and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. IJN sits on the Steering Committee of the CAMBIO campaign.
Follow Alisa Wellek on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ImmDefense