Immigrant rights advocates unveil principles for immigration reform

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A group of immigrant rights advocates laid out a list of principles for immigration reform.

Scenes from the “Time Is Now” immigration reform rally that took place near the U.S. Capitol on April 10, 2013. On Wednesday, a group of immigrant rights advocates laid out a list of principles for immigration reform. (Flickr/SEIU International)

As House Republican leaders prepare to release a set of principles for immigration reform, a group of immigrant rights advocates laid out their own list of principles on Wednesday.

Their list calls for family unification and a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The list was put together by members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the nation’s largest coalition of grassroots organizations fighting for immigrant rights.

“This is what we believe must be part of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform,” Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland and a member of FIRM, said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.

Here is the full list of principles for immigration reform offered by FIRM:

  1. Provide a path to citizenship for all members of our communities
  2. Reunite all families and reduce immigration backlogs
  3. Provide opportunities for safe future migration and maintaining worker protections
  4. Establish border policy that respects border and immigrant communities
  5. Respect the safety and security of all in immigration enforcement
  6. Restore fundamental due process and civil rights of immigrants
  7. Recognize immigrants’ full humanity

Advocates: GOP principles must include citizenship

House Republican leaders are expected to release their list of principles for immigration reform at the end of January.

Their list is likely to include measures to strengthen border security and interior enforcement, require employers to use a worker verification system and implement an effective entry-exit visa program.

Advocates with FIRM want a path to citizenship.

Advocates with FIRM are pushing for a path to citizenship. (Flickr/NEA Public Relations)

It is also likely to differ from FIRM’s list of principles when it comes to what to do with the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living here. While FIRM members listed a path to citizenship in their list of principles for immigration reform, House Republican leaders are likely to include a path to legal status in their list.

A few House Republicans have been pushing for a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, including undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. But advocates said Wednesday they’re not willing to accept anything less than a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.

“We will always fight for citizenship. They cannot force us to choose,” Kica Matos, a spokesperson for FIRM, said in the call with reporters. “Asking us to choose legalization over citizenship is like asking the civil rights movement whether they would accept integration without voting rights.”

Josh Hoyt, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), agreed with Matos and said a path to citizenship would open doors to more opportunities for undocumented immigrants. He said they would be able to vote, their incomes would increase and they would feel more motivated to learn English.

“We are interested in winning real victories that make people’s lives better and keep families together,” Hoyt said.

Dreamers offer new strategy for immigration reform

But not all immigration reform advocates are pushing for a “citizenship or nothing” approach.

A group of Dreamers recently released a letter addressed to leaders in the immigrant rights movement, offering a new strategy for the immigration reform fight in 2014. As of Wednesday evening, nearly 120 Dreamers and allies had signed the letter.

Erika Andiola and other Dreamers are calling for a new immigration strategy.

Erika Andiola is among the Dreamers calling for a new strategy. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

They call on leaders of the movement to “focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn’t include a special path to citizenship.”

“Our families and communities need relief now, not ideological hard lines,” they insist.

The Dreamers also advocate for legislation that offers citizenship for Dreamers and legalization for their parents, and that doesn’t block existing citizenship channels. They also call for the immigrant rights movement to unite in calling on Democrats and President Barack Obama to expand administrative relieve and stop deportations.

Furthermore, they call on leaders form the immigrant rights movement to “let go” of the Senate immigration reform bill (S.B. 744) and the House version of that bill (H.R. 15) and instead focus on “winnable pieces of legislation in the House.”

The Dreamers go on to say:

“As undocumented advocates, we do want citizenship rights. We believe that this is our country, and our family’s home. We do want to be able to vote and voice our opinions. We cannot, however, wait for that to happen while our families are being persecuted.”

Torres responded to the Dreamers letter saying he and other advocates agree that it’s “very important that we legalize our families.” However, he insisted that a path to citizenship is “critical.”

“We respect the position of the Dreamers,” he said. “But we believe that we just cannot stop on legalization. Legalization is one step in the right direction, but we need to have citizenship as well.”

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