Sunday, December 18, 2005

US House votes tougher laws against undocumented workers

The US House of Representatives voted for tough new measures against illegal immigration into the United States. The Washington Post has good coverage of the measure which is being closely watched in El Salvador because of the large number of undocumented Salvadorans in the US.

On Friday, December 16, the House passed the measure toughening US immigration laws:

Under the House bill, employers would have to confirm the authenticity of employees' Social Security numbers against a national database of legitimate numbers or face stiff new fines of as much as $25,000 per violation. The measure would end the "catch and release" policy for immigrants other than Mexicans who are caught entering the country illegally and then released with a court date. All illegal immigrants apprehended at the border would have to be detained, and deportation processes would be streamlined.

Criminal penalties for smuggling immigrants would be stiffened, with new mandatory minimum sentences. Immigrant gang members would be rendered inadmissible under any circumstance. Mandatory minimum sentences would be established for immigrants who reenter illegally after deportation, and local sheriffs in the 29 counties along the Mexican border would be reimbursed for detaining illegal immigrants and turning them over to federal custody.

Under an amendment approved Thursday night, the nation would spend more than $2.2 billion to build five double-layer border fences in California and Arizona, totaling 698 miles at $3.2 million a mile. Another amendment approved last night would empower local law enforcement nationwide to enforce federal immigration law and be reimbursed for their efforts.

The law is opposed by various business, Latino, religious, and union groups. The House refused to include President Bush's proposal for a guest worker program which would allow workers to come to the US to work and return to their home countries. The Senate will take up the measure in January and may not follow the House lead.

The Post also covers the fear of church groups that the law's penalties against those who provide assistance to undocumented aliens could be used against those who giving humanitarian relief along the border:

When Tim Holt spotted Maria Rabanales of El Salvador lying still in the Arizona desert this summer, he believed he had a God-given duty to save her.

He forced water through the woman's swollen jaws and poured ice down her shirt. Border Patrol agents later took Rabanales to a hospital, where she was revived.

Holt was praised by Humane Borders, sponsored by First Christian Church of Tucson, where he is a volunteer. But his actions that June day might soon be considered a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison or property forfeiture, if a Republican-sponsored bill that passed the House along partisan lines on Friday becomes law.

The bill -- endorsed by the Bush administration though it would have preferred a more comprehensive bill with a guest-worker program -- would make it a crime to assist undocumented immigrants who enter or attempt to enter the United States illegally. It has sent a chill through church organizations that help migrants in the belief that they are carrying out the will of God.

Finally, columnist Marcela Sanchez provides insight into the lives of immigrant workers who send significant portions of their income back to their home countries so that family members can lead a better life:

The irony is that from the burden felt by some here comes a huge boon to recipients of remittances. This year Latin Americans will send $50 billion to loved ones, an amount well above combined foreign aid and direct private investment. The $100 that Lopez sends weekly to Guatemala has already built a home for her family.

And in times of crisis, that money truly is a lifeline. When Hurricane Stan devastated much of Guatemala in October, Lopez's relatives in Puerto San Jose on the Pacific Coast lost most of their belongings and the means to earn an income. While the Guatemalan government struggled to respond, Lopez had already turned to a small financial services center in the United States, Alante Financial, to take out a $3,000 loan, money she immediately sent home to help her family members get back on their feet.

In a way then, Lopez's action brings her closer to the American experience -- she has discovered the power of debt and how it enables her to give more. And while her presence, and that of other Latin American immigrants here, may be unwelcome to some, perhaps it is by better understanding the similarity in their giving spirit that Americans might re-evaluate what they consider a burden.


Anonymous said...

Latin Americans know that this is all smoke and mirrors, because the US economy relies on underpaid workers, who have no rights under US law. 2006 is an election year and this is the standard propaganda from Washington. It means that Coyotes will get richer and more people will be left to die in the desert.

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