Jun 3, 2007
Senate negotiators announced on May 17 they had reached an agreement on an immigration bill.
Ted Kennedy, a main sponsor of the bill, declared, “For each of us who crafted it, there are elements that we strongly support and elements we believe could be improved. No one believes this is a perfect bill.” But he called it “strong, realistic, and fair.”
Fair? The bill is set up in such a way that all those people who supposedly are given a “legal” status will in reality be chained to their bosses, under constant threat of deportation for many years.
The bill requires immigrants without papers to register with the Department of Homeland Security. This starts six months after the bill is passed. The department estimates that between 15 and 20% of these immigrants would be disqualified. People who do not register within one year will be ineligible for “legal” status.
Once immigrants register, they would be on “probation.” They could be deported if they do not maintain continuous full-time employment or school attendance. They would not be allowed to travel outside the United States.
Nothing else goes into effect until government agencies “certify” they have “closed” the borders. This can happen only after the Border Patrol hires 14,000 agents and installs 370 miles of border fences and 200 miles of vehicle barriers. The Department of Homeland Security would have to create a “fraud-proof” database for employers to use to verify the “legal status” of all job applicants. Department officials estimate that this step would take at least 18 months more.
Only after that can the immigrants and family members who are already here apply for a special new visa called a “Z visa.” At that point, they must pay fines and fees that add up to $4,500 for a family of four. They would have to renew their Z visas every four years, paying fines once again.
They would not be allowed to bring family members here who are not already here.
During all this time these immigrants must continuously hold a job. That means if they strike, oppose their bosses, ask for higher wages or just refuse an order they risk losing their legal status. Essentially, they are chained to their boss.
Those immigrants who made it through all these years of this new indentured slavery can apply for permanent legal residence, but only after the current backlog of applications is cleared. This is expected to take at least eight years, but that’s only an estimate, and undoubtedly a very low one.
Heads of household would have to return to their country of origin, a considerable expense, in order to file the application for permanent residence.
They would then have to pay an additional $4,000 fine and show they speak English.
They would still have to wait many years before they could become U.S. citizens and have full legal rights. It is estimated that this would take at least 13 to 18 years in total. In fact, it will take more if we judge by what happened after the 1986 so-called “amnesty.” Close to 200,000 people who applied for permanent status then are still waiting.
Later immigrants will be even more chained to their bosses. Workers arriving after January 1, 2007 will have to apply for temporary guest worker status. They can remain in the U.S. for only three stints of two years each, and have to leave for a year between each stint. They can apply to become permanent residents only through a separate “merit” program, one requirement for which is a good temporary employment record.
This bill is an attack on immigrant workers – and on every worker. It’s obviously aimed at keeping immigrant workers in a status where their bosses can force them to work for lower wages. And this weighs on the wages of everyone else. When part of the working class is under attack, every worker is under attack.
Every worker has an interest in full legalization of everyone who works – and their families! If the bosses can put you to work – they can give full legal rights to you and to all who are dependent on you.
It is not even clear that this bill will pass because of all the games being played – just like before. What is certain is that each version of the bill gets worse.
Stop this attack on immigrant workers – and the entire working class! Full, legal rights for all immigrant workers and their families.