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Thursday, Jul 16, 2009, 7:57 am

Weekly Immigration Wire: The Morality of Reform

By Nezua

On Tuesday, relations between the U.S. and Cuba thawed a bit more, as AlterNet reports. Discussions for implementing U.S.-Cuba Migration accord resumed after a six year stall. This move is another positive mark for diplomatic progress between the two countries. In April, travel and money transfers to Cuba from U.S. nationals of Cuban descent were authorized.

When it comes to progress on immigration matters, the resumed dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba is a good sign amidst a field of less tangible legislative movement. Aside from the positive messaging sent from the White House after the June 25th meeting with lawmakers, not all is as rosy as it seems.

AlterNet tallies up recent legislative moves in "Backward Steps on Immigration Reform". As the title suggests, it's not good news. Advocates publicly praised the White House on their intention to pass reform and their recent decision to repeal the "no-match" rule which checks social security numbers against a database of controversial integrity. Unfortunately, the repeal was overturned one day later and got considerably less attention. We're left with the impression of progress which is undermined behind the scenes.

Worse than this, the Democratic administration is extending the 287(g) provision, which "deputizes local law enforcement as immigration agents." AlterNet also points out that "extensive research" has already determined how this "roundup and deportation program has run roughshod over civil and human rights and undermines public safety." Status Quo, meet Two Steps Backward.

Public News Service's Ariel Keck reports on how the E-verify system is wreaking havok on the economy. E-verify is a "federal system for determining employment eligibility" of workers. The U.S. Senate will soon consider expanding this heavily flawed program, which means that many employed and productive members of society will lose their income, and many of them citizens. Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network estimates there are "21 million U.S. citizens who don't possess government photo ID, as required by E-verify." They too, would be scooped up in this flawed system, should the Employment Verification program continue as proposed.

How would this play out on the ground? In Virginia, workers that harvest "labor-intensive" crops will have their documentation checked against a database of social security numbers. If no match is found, they will lose of their job, and possibly become involved in a legal battle to prove their identity. As noted, the integrity of the process as well as the database is debatable, so many workers will be unjustly unemployed. And all the while, the economy suffers from a loss in production and consumer spending.

It is ironic and cruel that the most vulnerable are scapegoated in these times of hardship. Writing for WireTap, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam points out the hypocrisy of groups who exploit economic downturns to promote anti-immigrant agendas. A recent development includes banning immigrant families from receiving state benefits and public services.

There is a "dishonest disconnect" to these arguments, Levesque-Alam argues:

When Americans loaded up on goods and services on the cheap at the expense of the undocumented during the boom, the hankering to curtail immigrant access to services scarcely rose to the level of a pipsqueak. But now that we’re in a poor economy and the undocumented are forced to avail of public services—precisely because they are denied private options by default—we are witnessing an outpouring of hysterics and moral effluvia about an immigrant “invasion.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who certainly owes some thanks to this country's generosity toward immigrants, has proposed one of the very initiatives Levesque-Alam writes of. Michelle Chen, writing for RaceWire, describes the new legislation as an attempt to impose "a five-year limit on state welfare support for citizen children of undocumented immigrants."

"Approximately 100,000 U.S.-born children in about 48,000 California households headed by illegal immigrants, who receive a monthly average of $472” would be affected by this legislation. Even if you view this through a fiscal lens alone, the amount "saved" is questionable, given the state's massive deficit.

"[Is it] really worth taking away a family’s monthly welfare stipend—money that, in the midst of a recession, barely buffers a household against starvation and homelessness?" Chen asks.

Addressing current immigration policies, and thelack thereof, Sojourners asks Where’s the Love? Reverend Anne Dunlap offers a pointed and simple plea for kindness and fairness, with an eye for hipocracy: For those who are "trying to be faithful to God’s way, God’s vision of communities filled with justice, dignity, and love, the reminder to “love the ‘alien’ as you love yourself” should be the touchstone of our work in solidarity with the immigrant community."

Affording others the kindness and opportunity we'd want to be given ourselves is an honored tradition among many peoples—those who believe in a God or otherwise. And for good reason, as other options tend to encourage isolation, exploitation and imbalance. We must act to help those in need and suffering because that's what a healthy, growing world does for itself in order to keep thriving. Ultimately, a less fearful and more humane approach has many positive results for all of us.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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