Unity Blueprint Cover Letter

To:     United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
          Unity Blueprint Press Advisory
          United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

          Unity Blueprint Endorsers
          Members of the United States Congress

The Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform provides specific legislative proposals for rational and humane transformation of the current immigration policy disaster in the United States. While we encourage the efforts of all organizations to achieve broad immigration reform, these proposals reflect the aspirations of a wide range of civic and labor organizations participating in discussions aimed at achieving a workable, just, and fair immigration system that addresses the interests of the nation and the millions of immigrants who give their labor, talents, and investments to it without the benefit of protections and rights extended to its citizenry.

We recognize that organizations supporting immigration reform may adopt different priorities and strategies in their public education and advocacy work. However, virtually all organizations agree on the need for an immigration system that dramatically reduces the size of the undocumented population and replaces the visa processing system with one that prevents expansion of the undocumented population in the future while protecting U.S. workers.

As stated in the Preamble, we believe that the Unity Blueprint advances proposals that are both in the national interest and in the interest of its immigrant communities. Indeed, the Blueprint builds upon the unity of interests between the nation and its immigrants.

The following is  a summary of the essential provisions of the Unity Blueprint

1. Protect the well-being and safety of immigrant and U.S. citizen children. Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to permit the parents of U.S. citizens to petition through their US citizen children under 21 years of age, avoiding the deportation of the parents of US citizen children and allowing such children equal opportunities with other citizen children. Support enactment of the DREAM Act. Support enactment of the Child Citizen Protection Act. Amend the INA to require that apprehended immigrant children are informed about rights they possess to legalize their status under existing laws enacted by Congress and are afforded the assistance of counsel.

2. Achieve faithful enforcement of immigration laws by reinstating the jurisdiction of the federal courts to review agency decisions involving immigrants. Repeal provisions in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and the 2005 Real ID Act that strip the courts of their historic role to ensure that the Executive faithfully implements the laws of Congress.

3. Achieve maximum protection of the labor rights and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers. Repeal current Employer Sanctions laws that are ineffective in stopping the hiring of undocumented migrants but cause widespread discrimination against citizens and are used to further threaten and exploit undocumented workers. We support a new regime of employer sanctions that enhances penalties against employers who violate the labor rights of immigrant workers. Bring antidiscrimination protections in the INA into line with those in other civil rights laws. Ensure that immigration enforcement complements rather than undermines the enforcement of labor and employment laws. Review international trade agreements that contribute to undocumented migration. Prohibit States from considering immigration status in determining worker benefits. Increase budgets for the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

4. Achieve maximum reduction in the size of the undocumented population. Enact a single-tier and truly comprehensive legalization program offered to all undocumented persons who have not committed serious crimes so as to make them a danger to their communities. Provide an expedited legalization program for long-time resident Central American and other refugees previously granted some form of temporary status.

5. Achieve a realistic legal framework for future migration. Restructure the immigration quota system to better match the known family and employment-based demand. Ensure that the issuance of permanent and temporary employment-based visas are determined by labor needs based upon reliable economic indicators, rather than an employer-driven system that is easily gamed. We oppose temporary guest worker programs and therefore clearly do not support any expansion of such programs. If present temporary worker programs are retained, they should be reformed to provide full labor rights and the ability to seek resident status after three years. Repeal the 3 and 10-year and permanent bars that prevent immigrants from legalizing their status. Restore the ability of immigrants to legalize status in the U.S. despite overstaying visas or entering without inspection.

6. Achieve rational and humane operational control of the borders. Require that migrants apprehended entering the country be informed of rights extended to them by Congress before they are deported (rights available to victims of trafficking and violent crimes, and abused and abandoned unaccompanied juveniles). Limit enforcement of the borders to the U.S. Border Patrol without involvement of the National Guard which has other important functions to fulfill. Make enforcement of laws to prevent vigilantism a priority and monitor vigilante activity. Decriminalize humanitarian assistance to migrants injured while attempting to enter the country. Make border enforcement solely a federal function. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 calls for walling in much of the US-Mexico border using non-unionized labor and without compliance with protective labor legislation. Such efforts have been wholly ineffective over the past twenty-five years and funds allocated for walling-in the country would be far better utilized to finance much needed domestic infrastructure development projects. Prohibit Border Patrol high speed chases and use of deadly force except when required to protect life or serious injury. Repeal recently enacted laws that permit "expedited removal" of certain migrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border, many of whom have U.S. citizen family members and remedies to remain under existing laws (such as crime victims, children, trafficking victims, etc.). Enact legislation permitting border crossing by indigenous people. Set up an Independent Commission to provide accountability, consultation, and monitoring of federal border policies and practices.

7. Achieve rational and humane interior enforcement and related policies relating to the presence of immigrant communities. Enact legislation prohibiting mass non-individualized detentions of citizens and immigrants at work sites and elsewhere. Repeal the recent law that bars States from issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrant drivers, causing them to drive without training, testing, or insurance. Grant suspension of deportation or registry to immigrants of good moral character with five years continuous residence. Repeal recent laws that prevent release on bond for apprehended migrants who are not a flight risk or risk to the community. Enact legislation making removal proceedings open to the public. Enact legislation making technical violations of registration requirements punishable by civil penalties. Require accuracy in the National Crime Information Center database. Enact legislation to amend the definition of an "aggravated felony" in the INA (now includes many misdemeanors and non-aggravated crimes). Enact legislation to prohibit the retroactive application of immigration laws. Enact laws to grant immigrants full access to financial institutions.

Long-range immigration policy must also address the underlying root causes that drive migration to the United States, including massive inequality in wealth distribution, economic dislocation in major sending communities, and free trade agreements that have caused workers to loose their jobs in migrant sending communities. No rational policy can ignore these realities.

The Unity Blueprint of legislative proposals is intended to guide legislators, advocates, and the public on the framework of a rational and humane immigration policy that protects and promotes the interests of children, U.S. workers, immigrant workers, sending communities from which immigrants come, and the communities in which they live and work in the United States.

The Unity Blueprint is a reflection of an ongoing national conversation among community-based groups, coalitions, labor organizations, and other concerned civic groups. It is subject to on-going discussion, debate, improvement, and endorsement.

Groups interested in endorsing the Unity Blueprint or offering comments, please email:

Peter Schey pschey@centerforhumanrights.org
Pablo Alvarado apabloalvarado@aol.com
Rosa Rosales presidentrosales@lulac.org
Angela Sanbrano angela.san1@verizon.net

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