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Immigration Reform Must Consider Why People Migrate in the First Place

"Unless there's an alternative to the neoliberal economic order, in 20 years we'll have a similar debate about what to do with undocumented people that will be here because of the same neoliberal policies."

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So what this bill's going to do: it's going to give undocumented people registered professional immigration status, RPI status. And RPI status is a temporary status for people who have no history with the law. Basically you have to have almost a perfect record to qualify for the RPI status. And if you qualify for RPI status, you're basically going to be in a temporary status for ten years. So I can understand if someone's undocumented how this is an important step forward, because it prevents them from being deported in the short run. Okay?

So that's the best thing about this bill and the worst thing at the same time, because it's not--I mean, it's good because it prevents people from getting deported, but over the long run this RPI status is linked to border militarization. In fact, this is the first time that we've seen an immigration reform bill that makes the legalization process, the path towards getting a green card--from green card to citizenship status, it makes that dependent on the border being secure. And this concept of the border being secured is such a subjective concept that we're in a situation where the DHS and, depending on what amendments go through, possibly border civil society groups that can be anti-immigrant, governors such as Jan Brewer [incompr.] of governors from the border states, it might be up to them to say when the border's secure. So when you allow border security to be defined by such subjective forces and you link legalization to border security, essentially what you're doing is [incompr.] people in a temporary status for a very long time. And that is one of the most problematic aspects of this bill.

In addition to the RPI status and border militarization, this bill is going to result in 3,500 new agents working for ICE and the DHS in customs and border enforcement. So we have 3,500 new, basically, agents of the Homeland Security state. We're going to have more drones in the air. We're going to have the continued use of National Park troops at the border to continue building walls, to install seismic sensors. We're going to continue to see the expansion of programs like E-Verify.

This bill will expand E-Verify. Within five years E-Verify will become a program that has been expanded nationally to all employers in the United States. And what that's essentially going to do is going to--if you're undocumented, it's going to make it impossible for undocumented folks to find any work. Essentially, E-Verify is institutionalizing the immigration enforcement through attrition strategy developed by the nativist right in think tanks in Washington, D.C.

So the bill has a lot of problems.

And, you know, we have to look at this bill and say not everyone's going to qualify for RPI status. I mean, we're--just right now with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I know a lot of young people who haven't qualified for DACA or a lot of folks that didn't qualify for really mundane things, like their--some of their paperwork not being--not necessarily having the same--a discrepancy in the paperwork. You know, maybe they have a certain birthday on their birth certificate in Mexico, they came over here and they applied for a green card and were rejected and there is a discrepancy on the birth date on the birth certificate in Mexico and the birth certificate here--they don't qualify. I've had students who've been beat up and falsely arrested by the NYPD because of the criminal record that's wrongfully on their--this wrongful criminal record that was imposed on them through police abuse. They don't qualify for DACA. Or students that turn 31 that don't qualify for DACA.

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