HIAS Welcomes Senate Compromise Immigration Package as Starting Point

Posted on Mon, May 21, 2007 at 10:59 am

by Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO

Amendments Necessary to Fulfill Promise of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

HIAS – the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – welcomes the announcement that President Bush and Senate Republicans and Democrats have come together to deal with the issue of earned legalization for immigrants working and contributing to our society. While we feel that it is essential that this debate move forward, HIAS remains extremely concerned about a number of provisions that undermine family reunification and fail to create a workable and fair new legal immigration system.

HIAS, the American Jewish community’s international migration agency, has long been an active voice in support of efforts to resolve the complex problems associated with undocumented migration. In June 2003, HIAS passed a resolution calling on the Administration, Congress, the Jewish community and all Americans concerned about the country’s future to recommit to the complex process of developing a comprehensive reform proposal that will make our immigration system both more secure and humane. In March 2006, we issued a statement insisting that comprehensive immigration reform include ways to safeguard security, fulfill labor needs, and remain true to America’s core humanitarian values. While the Senate’s compromise package represents a step in the right direction toward fulfilling many of these objectives, many of its provisions fall short of our stated goals of comprehensive reform.

HIAS is extremely concerned about the provisions that would undercut family reunification and create a point system that undervalues the central role that family ties play in our immigration system, as well as fails to provide a solid path to citizenship for new immigrant workers, which could lead to the creation of an underclass of exploited workers without basic rights. Now that both sides have rolled up their sleeves and come to the table, we must turn our attention to fixing those provisions that do not pass the test of basic fairness, workability, due process, and family values.

HIAS believes that we must take advantage of the historic opportunity that this new legislation provides to fix our broken immigration system in a way that puts smugglers and document forgers out of business while creating a legal immigration system that will serve our country’s security, economic and humanitarian interests. While the serious flaws in the Senate deal must be addressed before we could ultimately accept the plan, HIAS is committed to working with Congress to ensure that the President signs into law - this year - a bill that is workable, fair and humane. We also support the inclusion of Senator Lieberman’s “Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act,” which would provide necessary safeguards and protections for asylum seekers in expedited removal.

The alternative is to accept the status quo and endure continued migrant deaths in the desert, sporadic raids that separate families and displace essential workers, exploitation of immigrant workers through an illegal immigration system, prolonged waits for family reunification immigrants, inconsistent and haphazard immigration policy and enforcement at the state and local levels, and a chaotic and wasteful border and interior enforcement scheme that places the United States’ security in jeopardy. This alternative is unacceptable.