Bush Administration Throws In The Towel With Immigration Enforcement

Posted on Wed, Aug 15, 2007 at 9:48 am

Non-comprehensive approach disastrously lopsided;
does not create a system America deserves

(Washington, D.C.) – The enforcement-only immigration reform proposal released last week by the Bush administration effectively demonstrates the White House’s surrender to the contentious issue of truly comprehensive immigration reform, according to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).

“We are alarmed that the Bush administration, which has all along touted the absolute necessity to comprehensively reform our immigration system, has decided to pursue a course that disregards the many fundamental problems of our broken system,” says Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of HIAS. “By ignoring the existence of approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the country and the economic realities that draw workers to this country, this new plan completely misses the mark. On an issue of life or death importance – which this truly is – accepting defeat is simply not an option.”

According to Lisa Shuger, HIAS’ Washington director, the new plan is a minimalist approach that will not solve the underlying problems. “The Bush administration has admitted that our immigration laws are broken, yet its new plan aims to improve border security and immigration within the limits of those broken laws. Any plan that seeks improvements within a broken legal system without fixing the laws first is futile.”

The administration’s new proposal comprises 26 points, and includes provisions that will amplify detention and deportation without addressing existing abuses within the system; reduce access to court hearings to contest erroneous deportation orders; base worksite enforcement on a notoriously unreliable federal database; expand the implementation of an error-prone and insecure employment eligibility verification system nationally; and escalate the dangerous practice of recruiting state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws, says HIAS.

“Implementing these enforcement policies without a comprehensive overhaul of our legal immigration system dooms them to failure,” says Aronoff. “What’s more, many of these policies could lead to disastrous consequences for the nation’s security, economy, and civil rights.”
Furthermore, the administration did not go as far as it should have within the limits of the law, says Aronoff. “These 26 points ignore the recommendations for administrative reforms which were made more than two years ago by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.” That bipartisan commission documented systemic problems of immigration officers failing to follow procedures in the apprehension and processing of undocumented aliens, undermining DHS evidence to be used in support of their enforcement efforts, as well as evidence to be used to prevent bona fide asylum seekers from being returned to their persecutors.

HIAS has led the Jewish community effort over the last several years to promote comprehensive immigration reform that is consistent with Jewish religious and ethical values of welcoming and protecting the stranger, and the Jewish community’s interest in promoting border security policies that can actually work. For years, HIAS has called for reform of America’s legal immigration system that provides adequate channels for workers to enter and work in the country legally with their rights fully protected, improvements to the family immigration system to reunite families in a more timely manner, and an earned path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the country.

“Only by channeling the current undocumented flow into a legal and orderly system that is secure and protects human rights at the same time will we truly be able to secure our borders and more easily tell the difference between those who mean to do us harm and those who only seek to work or reunite with family,” says Aronoff. “If this administration is really serious about securing our borders, it needs to pursue a national policy that is comprehensive and will fix our broken laws once and for all. We are urging the administration to reverse this course and for Congress to do its job.”