Sen. Ken Salazar gave a speech in the Senate Senate Thursday, backing the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, including its guest worker provisions.
The theme of the speech was not the guest worker program. It was “broken borders and lawlessness,” a phrase he repeated five times. He lauded the many criminal enforcement components of the bill, including those that:
- Double the number of Border Patrol agents–adds 12,000 new agents over the next five years;
- Double interior enforcement–adds 1,000 investigators per year for the next five years;
- Increases resources to expand the ability of federal agents to retrieve aliens detained by local police;
- Increases resources for additional detention facilities;
- Adds new electronic surveillance technologies and resources to create a “virtual fence” at the border;
- Provides for reimbursement to states for costs of prosecuting and imprisoning undocumented criminal aliens; and
- Provide for faster deportation process, and enhanced penalties for gang, tunneling, smuggling, and greater resources targeting ID fraud.
Salazar does oppose the creation of a physical fence along the border. True to his bipartisan nature, he says:
Some would have preferred that we wall off our country along our southern border. To the proponents of building a wall, I ask–what would Ronald Reagan say?
Salazar opposes an amnesty program for undocumented residents and praises the guest worker provision in the bill. For those who think it will be a walk in the park for millions, think again. Check out these requirements:
In exchange for coming forward, these individuals will be given a temporary and conditional visa. After six years, if they meet numerous requirements, including proving they are integrating into our country by learning English, U.S. history and government, pay back taxes, commit no crimes, and pay more fines, they can get to the back of the line behind those who are currently waiting to become U.S. citizens.
The Senator ends his speech by quoting a prayer by Caesar Chavez.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think Caesar Chavez would be dancing over this bill. The criminalization components are very much like those in the House bill (H.R. 4437) that hundreds of thousands of people protested in the past few weeks. According to an action alert I received today from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NIRR):
[the Senate proposal] is fatally packed with egregious and unjust enforcement provisions that undercut the spirit and goals of real legalization. The bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27, contains many of the same provisions of the enforcement-tilted bill that passed the House (HR 4437). These extreme provisions would effectively bar millions of people from even the chance to earn legalization, take away the right to a fair hearing, legalize the indefinite detention of noncitizens, allow domestic military bases to be used for immigration detention, and turn local police into immigration agents.
Current law on immigration enforcement is already very harsh. By giving more detention authority to immigration agents, this bill would undermine checks-and-balances in our immigration system and hurt our communities and families. A real comprehensive immigration bill that offers a just solution must strip these egregious provisions.