11.28.2005

Bush Must Regularize Border

Robin Hoover writes: Bush has been to the border, and many late-to-the-conversation ideologues are riding their news cycles around the national media. As the former governor of Texas, Bush generally knows what needs to be on the table, only he usually has them ranked in reverse priority: security, workers, regularization.

As a matter of justice and security, we should first find out who is here, not by sending them home, but by having them register for a legal status that may or may not lead to citizenship. As many as a million migrants would probably go home for a visit if they had the freedom to travel. Second, we must get the migrants out of the dangerous and delicate desert through participation in a legalized work program that includes the input of the Mexican government, organized labor, and
human rights monitoring. Third, work with "sending" countries through economic development. It must be recognized, though, that economic parity will not stop the migration.

With these three major changes, the number of agents on the border would be enough to handle port inspections and to police the areas between the ports of entry. Then, adding personnel would increase security instead of pushing migrants further into the desert. If 98 percent of the migrants crossing the border were to cross at ports of entry documented, inspected, etc., the assumptions of the agents in the field would automatically change.

Comprehensive reforms include not only attention to these pressing matters but also to asylum law, laws concerning unaccompanied minors, lengths of detention, removal proceedings, including expedited removal, repatriations, and migrant safety issues. Anything less than comprehensive reform would be a disservice to the peoples of the Americas.

What all proposals currently lack is an incentive for visa compliance. In 25 years, the average length of stay for a migrant has quadrupled because of increased border enforcement and the high costs associated with crossing the border. Since many migrants are "trapped" here, many send for their families, placing them at risk by having them cross the desert with coyotes. Far too many, forsake their families and start new lives with new loves here in the US. Any serious attempts at immigration reform must address these social costs of migration.

An economic incentive for visa compliance should be created. Some 43 percent of the persons who are in the US without permission and proper documentation are persons who have overstayed their visas. Authorities cannot track the whereabouts of these persons without changes in law.

I propose a rather simple way to do this. When a migrant comes to the port of entry to enter the US with a new visa, he or she puts up a bond at the port of entry. The amount of the bond should be tied to the average cost of crossing the border. Clearly, migrants can and do spend money crossing the border. A legal visa and a bond would take money out of the human smuggling rings. Employers would be required to pay the migrant a modest hourly stipend. The stipend would be at least higher than the minimum wager to keep unscrupulous employers from paying migrants less than the minimum wage or from breaking covenant with those sheltered workers and minimally paid persons in our society with whom we have a collective social contract.

The amount of the stipend, and perhaps some of the wage, accrues by electronic transfer to the migrants' bond account every pay period. Since an average wage earner works some 2,000 hours each year, simply multiply 2,000 times the hourly stipend or total contribution, and the annual contribution to the bond can be calculated. At the end of the visa period, the migrant is compelled to make a choice: go back to the port of entry, pick up the bond which is now worth thousands of dollars, and leave the US, or go underground. If the migrant does not comply with the visa and pick up the bond within the specified time, the money is forfeited to law enforcement.

Since the migrant does not enjoy the full benefits and legal protection of citizenship, law enforcement would for the first time have access to the IRS records that would lead law enforcement to at least the last reported employment and residence of the migrant so that visa compliance could be obtained.

While this may seem harsh, the social costs of the migration could and should be addressed, visa compliance would certainly increase, the smuggling of humans could be diminished, deserts could be protected, and the necessary return to the migrant's country of origin would significantly enhance economic development and education there. Proposals that do not consider law enforcement components and funding proposals will not meet general public acceptance.

Humane Borders is deeply involved and profoundly engaged with public leaders, activists, and various players in the migration policy discourse. We offer many substantive ways for volunteers to do something about the circumstances that migrants face and many substantive ways to work toward comprehensive immigration reform. As from our founding, we invite all persons of good faith to join us in this work.

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11.27.2005

Bush In Tucson: Speech Planned

Fox News: On Monday, "Bush's trip will include an effort to boost his overall low job approval rating by delivering a speech in Tucson, Ariz., on border security ." Will the president promote his long-standing immigration reform proposals, including a guest worker program, or will he shore up his base and bash immigrants? We'll see.

Migrant Shortage Alarms Growers

Washington Post: "Shortages have swept the Western agriculture industry, bringing $300 million in losses to raisin growers in California's San Joaquin Valley in September and causing consternation about this winter's harvest from the Christmas tree farms of Oregon to the melon fields of Arizona."

Thanksgiving? Thank Migrants

North County Times: Members of the Escondido Human Rights Committee and Fallbrook-based Mexicans United in Defense of the People handed out fliers and reminded last-minute Thanksgiving shoppers of what they said are the contributions that migrant workers make to the United States. The action came in response to what group officials said is "the wave of anti-immigrant politics being spread by groups like the Minuteman Project," and the Escondido City Council's recent endorsement of the California Border Police initiative."

11.19.2005

Linda Chavez For Guest Workers

The conservative columnist and former director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan comes out for guest worker program in the op-ed pages of the New York Times (reg. req.). Money quote: "The best way to intercept the jihadists and criminals, however, would be to give hard-working laborers a realistic opportunity to come here legally - by enacting a more generous legal immigration law with a guest-worker option. Ideally, such a program would allow illegal aliens already here to participate after paying a fine and demonstrating that they have paid taxes and are gainfully employed."

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473 Migrants Perish

Houston Chronicle: "A record 473 migrants died in the last year while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the most since the U.S. Border Patrol began tracking such deaths in 1999."

More: "Robin Hoover, a Church of Christ minister and president of Humane Borders, a migrant advocacy group in Tucson, estimated 300 migrants died along the Arizona border.

'It's probably even more,' he said."

Bush May Visit Tucson BP

Arizona Republic: "President Bush is considering a visit with Border Patrol officials in the Tucson Sector when he comes to Phoenix for a fund-raiser on Nov. 28.

"I'm thinking that it's going to come together," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Thursday. He emphasized that plans are not definite."

11.11.2005

American Prospect

The (left-of-center) American Prospect for November features a cover story on immigration reform. Two essays are especially worth reading, one by Frank Sharry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, the other by Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration.

A Moral Majority

Some good news: "Despite their belief that undocumented immigrants are an economic drain on the state, most Arizona voters do not want to force them to leave the United States if they are established in communities and have no criminal record, according to a poll commissioned by The Arizona Republic." There's also majority support for, "Creating a federal guest-worker program that would permit foreigners to apply for temporary work visas."

Sellz, Strauss Trial Is Dec. 20

Support rallies are being held every Wednesday at Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd St., until the trial.

Don't Fence Me In

Does Duncan Hunter have a friend in the fencing business? Grijalva and Kolbe say no thanks.

11.10.2005

UA Bookstore Altar

The altar on display at the University of Arizona bookstore, honoring illegal immigrants who died while crossing the desert, comes down today. The Tucson Citizen reports, "To culminate the events Nov. 10, the university will feature a mariachi band, folklorico dancers and a reading by popular novelist Luis Alberto Urrea from noon to 6 p.m."

11.07.2005

Republic's Immigration Equation

Here's the link to the paper's complete "special report."

11.04.2005

E.J. Montini on Strauss, Seliz

The Arizona Republic columnist praises No More Deaths volunteers: "Unless the charges against them are dropped, Daniel Strauss and Shanti Seliz, who are in their 20s, could spend up to 15 years in prison for the crime of showing compassion in the face of human suffering.

This is nothing new. There is a long list of individuals who have paid with their freedom and even their lives for the sometimes unforgivable offense of benevolence. All that changes over the generations are the legal technicalities. In this instance, Strauss and Seliz were indicted in August in Tucson's federal courthouse on one count each of conspiracy to transport an undocumented immigrant and transporting an undocumented immigrant.

"What they were doing, in fact, was transporting sick people for medical care on the advice of both a doctor and a lawyer," says Margo Cowan, a lawyer who works with the young people in a volunteer organization called No More Deaths."

Stockton's "Dia" For Migrants

Stockton, Calif., Record: "Three altars were laid out on this Mexican Day of the Dead, all laden with tamales, marigolds -- the traditional flower of the dead -- and sugar skulls. One altar honored farm workers who had died in the fields, such as Maria Leticia Fonseca, who died last month when she was crushed by a tractor in a Lodi grape field. The other altar held photos and keepsakes of relatives long or recently departed and the third, crosses with names of those who had perished while crossing the border."

11.03.2005

Worst Worker Shortage In Memory

Arizona Republic: "Ed Curry stood in his chile fields on a Saturday morning in October, his crop three weeks behind schedule for harvest. He had a crew of 40 workers in the field to the south, filling bucket after bucket with ripe red chiles. In front of him, Curry had two U.S. Border Patrol agents, young guys, who had tracked footprints onto his farm and came up on five of his workers at the edge of the field. The agents were getting ready to take them away, back to Mexico."