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Immigration Advocacy for Advent: Information and ActionTO: Immigrant Advocates
FROM: Bethany Spicher Schonberg, MCC Washington Office
DATE: November 22, 2005
RE: No Room in the Inn: Immigration Advocacy for Advent
As Advent approaches, Christians across the country prepare to celebrate the birth of a baby whose family became migrants soon after his birth, traveling to Egypt to escape Herod's persecution.
Meanwhile, millions of immigrants in the United States live in fear of discrimination and deportation; countless more are routinely denied worker protections or social services (even though they pay taxes); anti-immigrant vigilante groups called "Minutemen" are gaining participants across the country, and 358 migrants died on the U.S./Mexico border in FY 2005.
In the past months, Congress has introduced dozens of punitive, anti-migrant bills. Still, there is hope: if legislators hear enough voices this Advent in support of reasoned debate and realistic immigration reform, the debate could move toward compassion and common sense.
Visits, phone calls, letters and faxes are needed now - as your legislators will be at home for Thanksgiving recess until December 5 - and throughout the immigration reform debate. The Senate will likely take up immigration reform in early 2006, but the House plans to vote on a harsh enforcement bill the week of December 12.
Tune into a talk show or read your local newspaper, and there's a good chance you'll hear about immigrants. Most likely, it will be an accusation: "they take our jobs," "they increase crime," "they crowd our schools and hospitals." In the past few years, the immigration debate has become loud and angry, with little attention to realities on the U.S./Mexico border, the role of immigrant workers in the U.S. economy, the root causes of migration or even our nation's immigrant history.
In Congress, recent immigration reform debate has produced only one reasoned proposal for immigration reform. For the most part, legislators seem determined to outdo each other's extreme, reactive anti-migrant bills, calling for a 2,000-mile border wall, military troops on the border or local police enforcement of immigration laws.
For months, the faith community has been rallying around the bipartisan Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (SAOIA) (S. 1033, H.R. 2330), introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and by Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Despite its imperfections, the bill would at least study U.S. border policy, reunify families, legalize undocumented immigrants and allow future workers to come and go safely across the border.
However, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently released a draft proposal for immigration reform, called the "Chairman's Mark." This draft, rather than the SAOIA, is likely to become the starting point for Senate debate. With no path to citizenship for the undocumented, the Chairman's Mark requires them to "report to deport," an unrealistic provision that will leave 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of our society.
In the House, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced the Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 4312). Without addressing immigrant families or workers, the bill takes an enforcement-only approach. It calls for the detention and deportation of all undocumented immigrants, adds 8,000 new Border Patrol agents and gives control of national parks and local police forces along the border to the Department of Homeland Security.
Senate: Encourage the Judiciary Committee to revise the Chairman's Mark to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Contact Sen. Arlen Specter or your own member if he/she is on the Judiciary Committee. (Find out by visiting http://judiciary.senate.gov/members.cfm) Contact the committee by phone (202) 224-5225 or by fax (202) 224-9102.
House: Contact your representative and urge him or her to vote against the Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act when it comes to the floor the week of December 12.
Congress: Tell your senators and representative the immigration reform provisions that are important to you, as a person of faith. See below for talking points.
Ideas for Changing the Debate:
Suggestions for Talking Points:
Visit the National Immigration Forum (www.nif.org) or the New American Opportunity Campaign (www.cirnow.org) for more information on immigration reform. For U.S./Mexico border information, visit the No More Deaths Campaign (www.nomoredeaths.org) or the Latin America Working Group (www.lawg.org). ________________________________________________________________________ Visits, phone calls, letters and faxes are all good ways to contact your legislators. Be sure to include your mailing address in all correspondence to confirm your residency in a particular district and state.
For elected officials' contact information, including the option of sending e-mails, visit the C-SPAN Directory, http://capwiz.com/c-span.
Visit the MCC Washington Office (www.mcc.org/us/washington) for advocacy tips and congressional voting records. We would be grateful for copies of your correspondence and any responses you receive!
Following is a brief description of several other immigration bills that have been introduced in the Senate or House: