As President Trump moves to replace one family immigration crisis with another, People For the American Way is speaking out with a coalition of more than 100 civil and immigrants’ rights organizations. Not only do we stand united against family separation, but we also oppose the shameful anti-immigrant “reforms” under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Border Security and Immigration Reform Act and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act are both terrible trade-offs that would drive fear into our communities and erode due process. You can download our letter here.
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 118 additional undersigned civil and immigrants’ rights organizations, we write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (the “Ryan bill”) and H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act (the “Goodlatte bill”).
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in policy that is wreaking havoc on thousands of vulnerable, young children. Let us be clear about who is causing this cruelty: It is President Trump. He made this decision, and as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) has said, “he could stop this policy with a phone call.”
Republican leadership in Congress is now allowing the president to use thousands of children being separated from their parents and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers as hostages to demand sweeping changes to our immigration laws.
Both of the Republican bills that will receive a vote this week are nothing short of shameful. Each of them represents a terrible trade-off that would penalize legal immigrants and asylum seekers, continue separating families, drive fear into our communities, waste resources, and erode due process.
The Ryan bill has been marketed as a “compromise,” but nothing could be further from the truth. It is based on the White House immigration framework that only garnered 39 votes in the Senate earlier this year, but in many respects, it is even more radical. For example:
- Its proposal to help Dreamers is worse than the White House framework, as it would tie the fate of Dreamers to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending on border security, and it would subject them to an untested and convoluted points system that would exclude many of them from gaining citizenship.
- It would provide $23 billion for an unnecessary, wasteful border wall and militarization of the southern border region.
- It would authorize over 50,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents without any meaningful oversight mechanisms.
- It would make it easier for DHS to deport children more quickly, including to some of the most dangerous countries on earth.
- It would allow the government to hold children in jail for even longer periods of time while their fate is being determined.
- It would make it harder for asylum seekers to escape persecution and violence by increasing the standard of proof, likely cutting the number of admissions in half.
- It would eliminate the Diversity Visa program, which ensures that immigrants from all countries have a fair chance to enter and to contribute to our nation.
- It would eliminate entire categories of family-based visas, preventing married adult children and siblings of American citizens from reuniting with their loved ones, even though they have been willing to wait in line for years or even decades.
- It would allow immigration officials to classify young people as gang members with little to no evidence.
- It would ramp up pressure on local governments to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers, ignoring constitutional prohibitions on detaining individuals without bench warrants.
- It would expand grounds of deportation that have been used to detain and remove legal residents, in some cases decades after they have paid for minor mistakes, and with no opportunity for them to show they or their families deserve a second chance.
The Goodlatte bill is even more extreme, in part because it would leave Dreamers with no path to citizenship. It would also impose a mandatory, flawed E-Verify system that would shut many citizens out of work and burden their employers, and it would expand exploitative guestworker programs. In addition, it would make drastic cuts to legal immigration and expand interior enforcement.
Contrary to what some proponents of the Ryan and Goodlatte proposals have claimed, neither bill would end the inhumane treatment of children at the Southern border. This is because neither bill would bring an end to the administration’s recent policy decision that has intentionally caused trauma to children. The administration has ended humane, effective, and cost-efficient policies that provide alternatives to detention. Neither bill would restore them.
Separating children from their parents traumatizes families and undermines our country’s once honored commitment to ensuring fairness and protection for those fleeing persecution. Family separation disgraces America’s founding principles. And it won’t stand if you and your colleagues demand the president reverse his cruel policy.
Any member of Congress who claims to support young immigrants—Dreamers as well as children fleeing persecution—must oppose both the Ryan and the Goodlatte bills.