CISPES Rejects HR 4437 and Senate Anti-Immigrant Legislation

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On March 28, 2006 the U.S. Senate began debating legislation for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. Immigration reform has become one of the most polarizing issues during this election year, and within a climate of increasing xenophobia and racism in the U.S., the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) reaffirms its steadfast support of immigrant workers struggling for their basic human rights.

CISPES denounces the passage in December 2005 of House of Representatives Bill 4437 (also know as the Sensenbrenner bill), the most draconian anti-immigration legislation to be passed in decades, and confirms its position in support of legislation that would pave the way for legalization and permanent residency for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. CISPES also supports the massive demonstrations over the past month in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington DC in which immigrants have not only rejected HR 4437 and other anti-immigrant legislation, but also called for increased options for legal migration and the recognition of immigrant workers as full citizens with both civil and economic rights. Finally, CISPES recognizes the connection between "free trade" agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA and increased migration from Mexico and Central America to the U.S., and rejects any legislation that does not address the economic root causes that push people to risk their lives crossing the border the United States border.

No to HR 4437 and Current Proposals in the Senate

The House bill that was passed in December (HR 4437) is a further attack on human rights that would worsen the already broken immigration system. In the name of "border security", HR 4437 would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals by classifying them as felons and subjecting them to imprisonment; it would make it illegal for people to aid undocumented immigrants; it would force millions of workers out of jobs while limiting their rights and worsening working conditions; it would deny due process and prevent steps towards citizenship for millions of immigrants; and it would fund the construction of a giant wall along one-third of the US-Mexico border.

On the other hand, the proposals being debated in the US Senate - including the McCain-Kennedy bill and the Specter bill - acknowledge the need for policy change but do not take into account the real problems with our country's immigration policy. In particular, the "compromise" bill put forward by the Senate Judiciary Committee contains some of the same anti-immigrant provisions as HR 4437 and calls for the creation of a "guest worker" program that would mark immigrant workers as second class citizens rather than treating them as full members of society. Such guest worker programs have historically led to the abuse of immigrant workers, and the current proposal would increase penalties for undocumented workers, thereby pushing many people to sign up as contract laborers. Though right-wing critics have called such legislation a step towards amnesty, the bills currently being debated in the Senate would in fact complicate the legalization process and limit the number of workers who could gain citizenship.

U.S. Economic Policies Drive Increased Immigration

The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador has worked for 25 years in support of workers, campesinos, students, women's groups, the FMLN party and all those in El Salvador fighting for social justice and equality. Given the worsening economic situation in El Salvador - which will be exacerbated by the implementation of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) - many Salvadorans have been pushed to migrate to the United States and other countries. CISPES recognizes that the journey across borders is a risk to one's life and a destabilizing force for many families; furthermore, the increasingly repressive US border policy has made that journey even more dangerous in recent years. The neoliberal economic policies pushed by the US government and international financial institutions have led to increased poverty in Latin America, displacing millions of people over the past two decades and forcing many to migrate beyond their own borders. The immigration conflict, therefore, exposes a persistent contradiction within the logic of corporate globalization: the promotion of cross-border movement of capital, goods, and services through "free" trade agreements like CAFTA alongside the broader restrictions on the passage of human beings across borders. Until there is a change to the economic polices being promoted by the Bush Administration, migration from Latin America will continue to grow, accentuating this grave contradiction.

CISPES joins the millions of immigrants and pro-immigrant activists taking to the streets in defense of human rights and in favor of comprehensive reform that provides a clear path towards citizenship and full rights for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. CISPES will continue its solidarity with Salvadorans fighting to change the economic and political system in their own country, while taking action in the U.S. to change our government's economic and social policy. We pledge to support the growing mobilizations against HR 4437 and any other anti-immigrant legislation in the Senate, and to connect such struggles to our ongoing work against "free" trade agreements, privatization, and militarization in Central America.

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