National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


White House Capitulates To Ineffective Anti-Immigrant Agenda

April 26, 2005

Washington, DCToday the Bush Administration embraced the REAL ID Act, controversial anti-immigrant legislation initially passed in the House of Representatives and now being considered as part of the supplemental appropriations package to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to fund tsunami relief efforts in Asia.  In a letter to House and Senate conferees, the White House Office of Management and Budget said, “The Administration strongly urges the conferees to include the Real ID Act of 2005 in the final version of the bill.”  This legislation, if enacted, would give the Secretary of Homeland Security unlimited powers to erect border barriers, including a three-mile fence across wetlands in California; unleash bounty hunters and bail bondsmen on immigrants still awaiting hearings on their court cases; make it much harder for those fleeing political and religious persecution to find refuge in the United States; and force every state to revamp its policies for issuing driver’s licenses for all citizens and non-citizens, without corresponding federal funding.

The following is a statement by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, a leading pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington, which has been generally supportive of the Administration’s call for comprehensive immigration reform.

We are deeply disappointed that the Bush Administration would so unequivocally embrace punitive measures that link all immigrants to terrorists and that will deny those seeking refuge from religious oppression a safe haven on our shores.  This President has painstakingly raised expectations in immigrant communities that he would fight for realistic and enforceable, common-sense solutions to our broken immigration system.  Now he has delivered a sucker-punch to immigrant communities by turning-tail and promoting the same types of ineffective, enforcement-only policies that have proven so completely ineffective at securing our borders. 

Piling more bad and unworkable policies on the already dysfunctional immigration heap will not make us safer, and could delay the day that we enact real reforms.  The “solution” to our broken immigration system the President has embraced is:  1) To build a fence; 2) To target vulnerable refugees fleeing terrorism and political oppression; 3) To prevent undocumented immigrants from driving legally or buying insurance. These won’t impact immigrants’ behavior, except to have them drive without insurance or licenses, to cross the border in more dangerous places, or to live underground after fleeing from their oppressors.  It is not a recipe that will satiate the American public’s appetite for solutions that secure our borders, screen intending immigrants intelligently, and shrink the haystack of those hiding in shadows.

Now, more than ever, comprehensive, bipartisan reform of our immigration laws is needed to move the immigration debate and our national security forward.  When comprehensive, bipartisan reform legislation is introduced and debated in Congress, the President will again have an opportunity to indicate if he is for common-sense reforms that enhance security or for political polarization that derails bipartisan solutions.

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