Attacking families isn't immigration reform
SOME U.S. senators have made a deal with President Bush on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform." It may be comprehensive, but it's not immigration reform -- it's an attack on families. And I will vote against it.
Immigration in America has always recognized the importance of family. This "reform" legislation would turn its back on families. Visa preference for non-citizen relatives of U.S. citizens would be limited to spouses and minor children. It would limit the number of spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents, many with established roots in the United States. Sisters, brothers and children over 21 would be forced to compete on a point-system geared more toward corporate staffing than keeping families together.
Families have been the framework of our immigration system because they provide stability. Many immigrant families start small businesses, create jobs, invigorate our economy and revitalize our communities. Without family, much of the upward mobility in this country would have been impossible.
MANY ASIAN and Pacific Americans have used family-based immigration to enter the country. Indeed, immigration to Hawaii is heavily based on family. Yet this proposal tears families apart.
Today's immigration "crisis" is being stoked by the 2008 Republican presidential primary race, in which fringe candidates beat the drum for their narrow viewpoints. Their first answer to illegal immigrants in the United States was to spend several hundred million dollars building 750 miles of fencing along a 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
Instead of being reduced, family-based immigration should be expanded, which would help clear the backlogs humanely. That's why I support H.R. 1645, the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007.
The STRIVE Act takes a genuinely comprehensive approach to immigration. It requires the establishment of a National Strategy for Border Security, including: criminal aliens; voluntary departure; expedited removal; background checks; enforcement of immigration laws; detention and alternatives; passport and immigration fraud; illegal entry and re-entry; detention and removal; criminal penalties; alien street gang members; and alien smuggling.
And, rather than relying on chain-link fencing, the STRIVE Act includes real border security: increased international cooperation; dealing with the problems of Central American gangs; the proper use of National Guard units along the southern border; and it directs the secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan to combat human smuggling.
The STRIVE Act focuses on the reason so many immigrants are willing to risk entering and staying in the U.S. illegally -- jobs. It would make it unlawful for an employer to knowingly hire, recruit or refer for a fee an unauthorized alien.
Of particular interest in Hawaii, the STRIVE Act would exempt from quotas sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans who were naturalized under the Immigration Act of 1990.
This is what real immigration reform looks like, not the patchwork of punitive and poorly thought-through measures in the compromise bill. If the Senate does not change these disastrous family provisions and presents them to the House, I will vote against it.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie chairs the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. He represents the 1st District of Hawaii.