What Immigration Reform Misses

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Op-Ed: On Immigration

People who endeavor to come to the United States to work or join family
are mired in outdated immigration laws and an unpredictable immigration

Currently, it is estimated that more than 12 million immigrants in the
United States are without legal documentation. Each year, an additional
300,000 or more join that population. 

For the past decade, the federal government has pursued a strict
enforcement-focused strategy in order to make the nation's antiquated
immigration laws fit current realities; however, the flow of
undocumented immigrants has only increased.

Rampant criminalization of immigrants who are not a threat to public
safety persists throughout the United States. Federal agents have
raided workplaces and homes all over the country in an attempt to
deport undocumented immigrants. Though these raids have been carried
out for years, immigration raids have escalated and have become more
aggressive, invasive, and extensive in recent months. 

These raids have had a devastating impact on families and have fostered
a climate of fear among the immigrant population and several industries
as well. As a result of these raids, mass deportations of hard working,
upstanding immigrants have occurred with ruthless haste and blatant
disregard for basic human rights and due process protections.

It is evident that the nation's immigration system is broken, and a
long-term solution to the nation's immigration problems requires a
comprehensive approach to reform that addresses all aspects of the
United States immigration system. 

For a comprehensive immigration reform plan to be effective, it is
essential that the plan includes initiatives that uphold the following
principles: (1) Provide a path to citizenship for immigrants currently
in the United States; (2) Protect the rights of all workers; (3)
Support family unification; (4) Restore fundamental due process and
civil rights; and (5) Promote full civic participation and integration
of immigrants.

The immigration reform agreement announced by key Senators from both
parties and White House officials this past May, while encouraging the
debate on this issue, did not fully uphold central immigration reform

The proposed path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants was
unwieldy and prohibitive, and temporary workers were not even afforded
a reasonable opportunity for citizenship. Further, the bill decayed one
of the bedrock principles of American immigration that legal immigrants
have the right to sponsor family members, and instead favored a system
that privileges those who possess advanced degrees and sophisticated
skills, which would effectively preclude many from achieving the
American dream and even change the very nature of the dream itself.

Though comprehensive immigration reform legislation is presently
stalled in the Senate, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is
no longer in question. 

As the home to a burgeoning immigrant population of nearly three
million, the stakes are high for New York City, and a comprehensive
immigration reform program will have a profound impact. 

It is imperative that Congress pass an immigration reform measure that
completely supports the essential principles of providing a path to
citizenship for immigrants in the United States, protecting the rights
of all workers, supporting family unification, restoring fundamental
due process and civil rights, and promoting full civic participation
and integration of immigrants.   

On June 5th, the New York City Council adopted a Resolution No. 842-A,
which urges the United States Congress to end federal raids to deport
undocumented immigrants and institute comprehensive immigration reform
that protects the fundamental civil liberties of immigrants and
integrates immigrants fully into American society. 

Over 20 years have passed since the last major reform of our nation's immigration laws, and change is long overdue.

Stewart is a New York City Council Member representing the 45th
District, Brooklyn, and Chair of the City Council Immigration Committee


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