Two million or more Salvadorans have migrated from El Salvador to the US seeking to improve their lives or the lives of their family members. Hundreds of thousands are in the US illegally, although most who came in 2001 or before are protected by "Temporary Protected Status." The money Salvadorans send back home is 1/6th of El Salvador's economy.
Currently the US Congress is considering immigration "reform." The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4437, also known as the Sensenbrenner bill, in December 2005. Now the US Senate is considering its own version of immigration reform.
The Sensenbrenner bill is a punitive, "enforcement only" piece of legislation. It is marketed as an anti-terrorist, security measure. The legislation would immediately criminalize the ongoing presence of any undocumented migrant in the country and make him or her guilty of an aggravated felony. The legislation would also potentially criminalize the actions of many church and humanitarian groups who seek to help migrants without regard to their immigration status. The Sensenbrenner legislation leaves out any guest worker program, despite President Bush's support for such a program which would authorize significant numbers of workers to enter the program legally to seek work.
Much more information on immigration reform is available at these websites:
- Justice For Immigrants
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
- AFSC - Immigrant Rights
- International Relations Center - Americas Program
Pressure is need on the US Senate to ensure that it enacts legislation which is more humane. Such efforts are a necessary part of solidarity with our neighbors in El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America. I urge the readers of the blog in the US to contact their Senators as soon as possible. An easy way to do this is to go to Congress.org, where you enter your zip code and then have a simple form to use to communicate with your Senators.
The letter I sent is set out below. You can cut and paste it into the form on Congress.org, or you can modify it or write your own message.
I write concerning the issue of immigration reform, currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and soon by the whole Senate.
As you know, Chairman Specter has introduced legislation entitled ÂThe Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006,Âwhich is the subject of Senate Judiciary Committee consideration. Although Chairman SpecterÂs legislation is a marked improvement over H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Immigration, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, it falls short of what is needed to fix our broken immigration system.
First, the legislation does not contain a path to citizenship for the undocumented population in the country. Instead, it grants them legal status and work authorization for an indefinite period. I am concerned that, without an opportunity to become citizens, this population will be relegated to a permanent underclass in our society, without full rights in the community. I ask that you support an amendment which would provide this population an opportunity to earn, over time, permanent residency, and, if they so choose, citizenship.
Second, while the legislation contains a temporary worker program, it does not include sufficient worker protections in the program to ensure that foreign-born workers receive just wages and benefits. I ask that you support any amendments which would strengthen worker protections in the new temporary worker program.
The legislation also contains many of the harsh provisions of H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Act of 2005, such as the criminalization of undocumented presence; the denial of permanent residency to a refugee who commits a minor offense; and the criminalization of the use of a fraudulent passport, including asylum-seekers who cannot obtain valid documents from their governments.
Senator, as you consider the immigration reform legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I ask you to consider these points and support amendments which address them.
Thank you for your consideration.