02/17/2011 07:03 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

APALA Responds to Sen. Orrin Hatch's Immigration Proposal: Time to Address Failed Immigration System

By Gregory Cendana & Katrina Dizon

Once a strong champion for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) now looks to push for a strict immigration policy focusing primarily on enforcement and deportation. He addressed members of the Heritage Foundation last Friday, laying down the framework for a bill that would most likely target millions of undocumented immigrants by enforcing programs such as a visa exit program as well as 287 (g), a program that would grant state and local law officials the authority in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants.

With political debate heating up this past year, politicians from both sides of the aisle seem to have incredibly stark differences in opinion on how to deal with the problem of illegal immigration in the country. As a past author and supporter of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would give status to young people brought to the country as children upon completion of school or joining the military, it is interesting to see Sen. Hatch's sudden hard line approach to addressing the country's current immigration problems.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA), a national organization of Asian Pacific American union members and their allies, believes that enforcement should not be a major component or sole focus of comprehensive immigration reform. Reality shows us that there is a very significant undocumented immigrant population that can no longer be ignored. The challenge is to develop a system that would prove to be mutually beneficial to our economy and to those that are seeking status in the U.S. Let's not work to alienate but to integrate those that deserve it.

Passage of the DREAM Act, which Sen. Hatch once strongly supported (but seems to have conveniently left off his current comprehensive immigration plan) would take the first step in integrating into our country deserving and qualified students. There was and still is strong support of a broad range of labor, community & youth organizations with bi-partisan support from Congress. Momentum only built when the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that its implementation would help cut our deficit by 1.4 billion and increase revenues by 2.3 billion in the next 10 years. With its historical passage in the House last year, it failed to make it through the finish line when the Senate was unable to muster the votes for it to pass. However, APALA, including many organizations that have been advocating for passage of the bill since it's inception like the National Immigration Law Center & United States Student Association, & thousands of DREAM activists across the country are not deterred from continuing to organize.

Last year we saw the defeat of common sense immigration bills such as the DREAM Act, but it has also witnessed some of the most divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric come to life in legislation such as Arizona SB 1070 as well as a proposal to undermine the 14th Amendment. Creating laws that leave immigrants, and in some cases, even citizens, vulnerable to racial profiling, discrimination and even loss of their constitutional rights, is no place to start when talking reform. We don't need to add to the already growing sub-class in the U.S. Laws that leave room for abuse and inequality must be re-examined. What we need is an immigration plan focusing on enforcement and deportation of those that are truly detrimental to our country, at the same time providing a legalization path for those that deserve it.

Cendana is the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO and Dizon is Membership & Social Co-Chair for the APALA-DC Chapter.