November 22, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
The change in administration provides an opportunity for a wide-ranging examination of immigration policies and practices. In the past couple of weeks, various constellations of organizations have been weighing in with the transition team for President-elect Obama on different aspects of the immigration system.
This week, representatives of the Border Network for Human Rights, the Border Action Network, and the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force were in town to release a report, Effective Border Policy: Security, Responsibility and Human Rights at the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The report details the impact current border enforcement strategies have had on border communities in the last several years. Among the consequences: abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents in border communities; a rising death toll among immigrants crossing the desert to come to work in the U.S.; an increasingly lucrative and violent smuggling business; vigilantes; increased militarization of border communities; abuses by a greatly expanded and sometimes poorly-trained force of border agents; racial profiling; communities divided by border walls.
At the same time, the government’s border strategy has not worked to stop the flow of undocumented workers. The economy of the U.S. has absorbed many more immigrants than are allowed to come legally. Until the laws are fixed, focusing on border enforcement alone is not likely to succeed.
In short, it’s time to think about a new approach, and that is what the representatives of border communities were here to talk about. In the group were elected officials, faith leaders, representatives of local law enforcement agencies, representatives of community organizations, businessmen, lawyers, and academics. The report lays out dozens of recommendations. Among them:
- Focus on the criminal element, and engage immigrants in fighting real dangers to communities.
- Implement policies that ensure accountability and provide local oversight of enforcement activities.
- Halt construction of the border wall, which has divided communities.
- Overhaul detention practices and the manner in which removals are conducted.
- Invest in economic development as the long-term solution to migratory pressures.
The full report can be found here.
You can find an executive summary here.
While in Washington, the delegation made the rounds on Capitol Hill—visiting several Members of Congress, including Representative Zoe Lofgren and Representative John Conyers, respectively the Chairs of the Immigration Subcommittee and the full Judiciary Committee in the House. In addition to the press conference, there were two briefings for Hill staff, one for Senate staffers and one for House staffers. Before they departed Washington, there was a meeting with many of the Washington groups who are preparing for the immigration debate in the 111th Congress, and the insights of the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force members will make a valuable contribution to the policy recommendations now being prepared for the new Administration.