We in Juntos are pleased to finally see comprehensive immigration reform be a part of the national dialogue. With Obama making a commitment to address the current broken immigration system, as well as senators from both parties delivering a framework to prioritize it, immigration reform clearly has the potential to become real for our nation this year. We believe this to be a step in the right direction. The show of power by immigrant voters and the power behind every demonstration and civil disobedience enacted by leaders in our organized communities left both parties with very little choice but to respond to our community’s demands. All of this work has catapulted immigration reform to the top of the priorities list for both Democrats and Republicans alike.
But what has been released so far by both parties have left many in our community with mixed feelings. Many of our concerns about this broken immigration system have still not been addressed by those in power. The proposed framework will not ensure an end to the unjust deportations of our family members, nor does it address the root causes of migration. Nowhere in this reform debate does either party make mention of the US foreign policies or the multi-national corporations that decimate the economy of the Global South and causes the very migration they wish to curtail. One of those policies, for example, is the free trade agreement NAFTA which allows U.S. companies to establish maquiladoras or factories on the border with Mexico. Although these sites are considered a source of employment for many, most cannot live off the poverty wage they earn of $8 per day. Families migrate for the very sake of survival; to escape war and economic devastation. We must address these issues if we want to have true immigration reform.
This administration has already invested in deporting more than 800,000 people in the last two years, spending millions of dollars to further expand the detention system, as well as the prison system. We were witness to more border-crossing deaths and human rights violations in detention centers in these past four years. All of this has happened at a time when numbers indicate a decrease in immigration. We at Juntos believe resources would be better spent in keeping our public schools open, educating our youth, and providing pathways to college and university than to spend on further enforcement. We should invest in the education of our youth and not in the deportation of our families.
Last year Juntos and many other organizations and unions worked together to fight back against state-level anti-immigrant bills that were a clear attack on the poor and working people of Pennsylvania. While E-verify was at the top of the list of bills that we fought back together, both parties and Obama have yet again cited a national E-verify system in this first attempt at framing immigration reform. E-verify has already made thousands of errors. The proposed reforms also reference allowing agricultural workers the ability to move to the front of the line as long as they commit to years of working in the fields. When labor laws granting the right to unionize were created, almost 100 years ago, it was domestic workers and agricultural workers who were excluded from those rights. So in order to move up in the line you have to commit to work in a sector that offers you very little to no protections from exploitation. Finally, we are concerned that those who do not qualify for reform will be driven further into poverty as they try to continue to provide for their families.
The stakes are high as 11 million people in our communities are still waiting for reform that allows them to live dignified and full lives free from fear. As the battle rages on for fair and humane immigration reform, we cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by a package deal that forces us to sacrifice the rights of some of our community for others. If we do not address the issue of migration and the exploitation of workers, we cannot address a broken immigration system. We look forward to more debates on this issue until we reach a place where immigration reform sits on the side of dignity and justice. Any immigration reform that is being debated must hold our families as a priority and the voices of those most affected should be at the forefront of the solution. We in Juntos will continue to fight until we see that happen