Senate Immigration Bill: More Militarization of the Border, No Real Path to Citizenship
Isabel Garcia: New legislation will increase deportations, beef up police while worker status will help provide cheap labor for businesses but make citizenship almost impossible to attain
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
On Capitol Hill this Thursday, the Gang of Eight senators defended their new immigration bill. This bill, which is being heralded as a pathway to citizenship by some in the media, is going to be looking at creating a provisional legal status for immigrants who came to this country illegally, and as well as a ten-year waiting period where they could potentially get permanent residence.
Here to discuss all this is Isabel Garcia. Isabel Garcia is the cochair of the human rights organization Derechos Humanos in Tucson, Arizona. She’s a criminal defense and immigration lawyer, and she’s on the board of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. She joins us now from Tucson, Arizona.
Thanks for being with us, Isabel.
ISABEL GARCIA, COCHAIR, DERECHOS HUMANOS: Thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So what do you make of this bill, in particular the media, some of them categorizing it as a pathway to citizenship?
GARCIA: Well, I think every article I’ve read talks about the reform bill dealing with 11 million undocumented people on this alleged path to citizenship. One only needs to read the summary to see that really the legalization of the 11 million is a low priority and will be limited severely. A pathway to even a provisional five-year worker status will be severely limited by the first part of the bill.
Really what this bill is is a total increase, unprecedented increases for border—alleged border security, because I’m telling you as a border resident, these monies that have come in for border security, particularly since the mid 1990s, have brought nothing but insecurity, death, separation of family, devastation of the local economies. It’s been brutal here.
And what this bill does instead of alleviating the tremendous damage that has been done here: they’re giving us even more border patrol agents, more ICE agents, drones, surveillance of the entire border, 100 percent surveillance of the border, more drones, the technology, and 90 percent apprehension rate. These are all triggers. It’s going to allow agents in all federal lands. As it is, the damage they’ve done to our environmental treasures here in the state are really dramatic.
When you look at the other provisions, it’s a hypocritical [incompr.] request from big business to give us the workers that we want [crosstalk]
DESVARIEUX: When you say that, Isabel, about it being hypocritical, what do you specifically mean? Because behind this bill you have the AFL-CIO supporting it, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. You have these diverse groups, you could say, people who are on different sides of the spectrum. What do you make of these types of groups coming together in supporting a bill like this?
GARCIA: Well, the problem is, of course—and to their defense, is that they’re negotiating. They’re negotiating. The problem is nobody deals with the real reality of migration, that 11 million people are here because we invited them to come.
You hear the Republicans saying, we can’t reward lawbreakers. What is their crime? They jumped the fence. Some aren’t even lawbreakers, because when you come in, half of the people come in with a permit, and then they overstay. That’s not a crime.
So let’s say that they’ve created the crime of illegal entry. We have invited them, both through business interests and governmental policies, we’ve invited the Mexicano worker for over 100 years. We even codified it during the war effort that we needed them. We signed the Bracero Program. And here we are again. We’re going to do that.
We’re going to also give premium to people with particular education and all and eliminating two very important family unification cornerstones of our laws, especially since 1964. We are undermining families.
We’re going to demand not only that they establish some strategy plan for seeing this border and all of it within six months. In the meantime, you would not believe the massive deportations.
We’re also going to set up E-Verify, a mandatory national identification system. Talk about Big Brother. I mean, we are absolutely extending this across the country. Everything that happens at the border eventually goes everywhere, as we can see now with the drones, with ICE agents and border patrol agents everywhere.
In spite of the fact that migration has been at the lowest for 40 years, in spite of the study that shows the border regions are the safest, they have less indices of crime, a lower crime rate than some of the other interior, in spite of the fact that border patrol has been criticized completely, not only by us but by the GAO on any number of things, they continue to get paid $80,000, $90,000 a year, while my lawyers here in my office get paid $60,000 a year and need to pay $100,000 in student loans.
We are robbing the Treasury for real security, which is schools. We’re firing teachers. We’re closing down the post office. We can’t fix our roads. We don’t have health care. Things that really bring security to our society, we are not doing them. We are squandering.
And very painful to us, they are tripling the criminal prosecutions in Tucson of illegal entry that I told you is the big crime of the century. They’re tripling the amount. They have 70 people shackled in chains, tied to each other, that have an entire criminal proceeding, an entire criminal—from initial appearance to sentencing to a private prison CCA that we pay $17 million per month at this point from this court. They want to triple that, adding another $50 million to that. Total is $5.5 billion in addition to the $18 billion that was utilized here.
We need to follow the money and we need to see the reality here, the reality of the border, the reality. We’re not dealing with the fact that 6 million Mexicanos left agriculture and related jobs in Mexico since ’94 and had to come to the United States unlawfully because of the North American Free Trade Agreement that has been established and found by the United Nations that over 6 million Mexicanos have left.
Why are we not talking about that instead of scolding them, instead of saying what the president said, that it’s time for immigrants to pay their debt to our society? It’s the exact opposite. It is time for us to pay our debt to the undocumented community. If they were not around, our economy would be in absolute shambles. They have built this country. They impoverished their lives to enrich yours and mine. The contributions are clearly established in any credible study. And yet we demonize the immigrant and then on the other hand say, well, but we need another 200,000 of you, you know, per year if we need to.
I think it’s really time for us to engage in a real dialog. And you ask about the other groups because they’ve not engaged in this dialog about the truth of immigration. If we had done that dialog, I think we’d be under a better scenario for a bill.
DESVARIEUX: Well, we’ll continue to track that bill, which is going to be debated on the Senate floor in the coming months.
Thank you so much for joining us, Isabel.
GARCIA: Thank you so much.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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