Senate Bill 744 is Not the Immigration Reform We Can Support
We at FAJ cannot in good conscience support or promote the Senate’s immigration reform bill S. 744. This was a weak bill when it was introduced, that got progressively worse as it snaked through the Senate in spite of advocates’ efforts to improve it.
S. 744 does not bring undocumented people ‘out of the shadows’. Because of numerous hurdles intended to limit the number of applicants, the proposed legalization program will not legalize 11 million undocumented. The Congressional Budget Office projects that little more than half of applicants will complete the 10 to 20 year ‘path’ to citizenship, and that’s only if the U.S./Mexico border, ports and airports are deemed 90% ‘secure’ by the Department of Homeland Security.
The high number of elderly in the Filipino community, including the caregivers in our base, could very likely not complete the long path to citizenship. Many of our domestic, and other low-wage workers, will be disqualified by income and continuous employment requirements, forcing them into abusive and exploitative jobs. The new requirements for capturing and deporting visa overstays within 180 days (who make up the majority of the 500,000+ Filipino undocumented), could mean ICE dragnets in our community. And foreign students in violation of their visas will not be eligible to apply for the provisional status.
Millions of undocumented people who choose not to apply because of the many fees and penalties, or drop off the ‘pathway’ because of unrealistic requirements like continuous employment and income thresholds, are at risk of falling victim to the historically repressive enforcement provisions that will lead to detention and deportation. The bill also subjects ALL employees — immigrant and non-immigrant — to the E-verify database that violates our right to privacy, and leads to the mass firings of workers increasing their risk of deportation. This is a sad day for human rights. The ‘trade-off’ of a limited, lengthy and questionable path to legalization, for the continued criminalization of immigrants is too high a price to pay. Human and civil rights advocates should not agree to sacrificing the rights of immigrants.
We also do not support the S. 744’s historic shift away from family-based immigration to employment-based immigration that includes the expansion of high-skilled and low-skilled guest worker programs. Temporary worker programs have a long, well documented record of exploitation and worker abuse and should be ended. (See our analysis of guest worker programs.) If foreign workers are needed, they should receive a green card. The influx of hundreds of thousands of temporary workers will also limit employment opportunities and hold down wages for US workers like graduating college students, young workers, and immigrants (like our domestic workers) who are navigating ‘continuous employment’ and income requirements to qualify for citizenship.
We oppose the massive militarization of the Southern border and border communities (which includes a 100 mile zone above the actual border). Our legislators know very well that desperate people struggling for the survival of their families will not be stopped by walls, high tech surveillance equipment, drones or even the threat of death. Militarization will only increase deaths at the border. The only beneficiaries of border militarization are the war and prison contractors (profiteers) whose intense lobbying has succeeded in securing a $46 billion set-aside for ‘border security’ in S. 744. Migration won’t stop until we deal with the root causes of displacement like NAFTA, war, and structural adjustment programs that cause poverty and displacement in countries like Mexico and the Philippines.
S. 744 is not the immigration reform we seek. It is destined to keep millions of undocumented on the margins of society where they will continue to be exploited by employers and become victims of discrimination and racial profiling at the hands of a better funded, expanded enforcement industrial complex that will profit handsomely. FAJ will continue to educate our community about S.744’s true impact and fight for real legalization without concessions to border or interior enforcement.
The ball is now in the House’s court, but given its anti-immigrant bias, immigration proposals will likely be worse.
If S. 744 – or something worse — becomes law we will continue fighting against the implementation of enforcement programs and the detention and deportation of the undocumented that will surely continue for another generation.
Temporary Work Visas and the Exploitation of Filipino Migrant Workers
Draft Prepared by Jennifer L. Sta.Ana
for Filipino Advocates for Justice and The Dignity Campaign
In theory, the guest worker program is a means for overseas workers to come to the United States in order to temporarily supply U.S. industries with labor that cannot be acquired domestically. Agricultural workers are brought in on H-2A visas, H-2B visas are for non-agricultural workers; and H-1B visas are for skilled workers like engineers and high tech workers.
However, as it currently stands, the program cannot systematically prevent labor and human rights violations. Many U.S. employers recruit abroad and fraudulently petition with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for overseas workers, who then only find themselves working in exploitative conditions after arriving in the U.S. For instance, employers will fail to pay overtime, provide inhabitable housing, pay well below minimum wage, and charge an exorbitant amount in recruiter fees. Because these workers can lawfully stay in the country only if they work for their petitioning employer, workers do not report abuses. They are deportable upon losing their jobs.
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are often victims of abuse arising from the guest worker program. Below is a list of recruiters and employers throughout the United States who have allegedly abused Filipino temporary workers: Read more