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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Civil and Human Rights Coalition Welcomes Immigration Bill, Urges Congress to “Strike the Right Balance”

For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org
April 17, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights welcomes the Senate “Gang of Eight’s” major step forward in the effort to tackle one of our nation’s most difficult and pressing issues. While immigration policy is incredibly complex, and we will continue analyzing the bill in the days to come, we are very glad to see the process is moving again.

Among other things, we are encouraged that the bill would eventually put undocumented immigrants on the road to citizenship, addresses the use of racial profiling, and promotes alternatives to cruel and expensive detention policies. Other aspects of the bill, however, are more troubling. We know that any major legislative effort involves a lot of compromise, and we will work with Congress in the coming months to make sure it strikes the right balance. 

It has been six years since Congress last brought up comprehensive legislation. Our nation’s immigrants and our economy have waited long enough. We look forward to working with Congress on legislation that meets the following objectives:

·                     A Roadmap to Citizenship: Hard-working immigrants who are contributing to this country should be encouraged to come out of the shadows and regularize their status. Forcing millions of workers to hide in an underground economy hurts the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans. Our goal must be to integrate as many immigrants into the United States as possible, once they meet reasonable requirements like background checks and payment of back taxes.

·                     Firm and Fair Enforcement: Our nation's immigration policies must be consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect and dignity. Any proposal that would criminalize immigrants, encourage state or local police to enforce immigration laws, encourage racial profiling, or penalize anyone for giving humanitarian assistance will not deter unauthorized immigration; it will only drive it further underground.

·                     Restoration of due process: Since 1996, including after 9/11, our immigration policies have drastically weakened the rights of immigrants. Many immigrants – including long-term legal residents – are torn away from their families under extremely harsh mandatory detention and deportation policies, or rushed through expedited proceedings that invite widespread mistakes and abuses. The use of private, for-profit detention corporations has boomed in recent years. Immigration reform should minimize the use of detention, and provide access to fair, humane, and common-sense enforcement proceedings.

·                     Family Reunification: Under our current family-based immigration system, it can often take years or even more than a decade for close relatives of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to obtain immigrant visas. This only encourages people to overstay temporary visas or find some other way to enter the country. Reform legislation should reunite families, eliminate unconscionable family-based backlogs, preserve diversity, end discrimination against LGBT people, and ensure adequate numbers of visas in all categories.

·                     Future Flow of Workers into the U.S.:  Any immigration proposal designed to meet the needs of employers for new labor must fully protect the rights of both immigrant workers as well as those already here. Any proposal that forces established workers to leave the U.S. after a short period of time, with no roadmap to citizenship, will make the workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Reform must also protect wages and promote economic advancement for native-born workers, including low-income African-American workers whose high unemployment is often exploited by restrictionist groups.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

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