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House Subcommittee Examines Bill on Immigration Reform

On November 8, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a hearing on H.R. 750, the Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2007, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). Among other provisions, the bill would increase the number of family-based immigrant visas, and would grant permanent resident status to an immigrant who entered the U.S. more than five years ago; is “of good moral character”; was not convicted of a crime; performed 40 hours of community service; and “has accepted the values and cultural life of the United States,” including the completion of English-language training.

Rep. Jackson Lee cited one of the Congressional Black Caucus’ goal in immigration-reform legislation: “Unification of immigrant families, which would include uniting immigrants with spouses, children or other close family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.” She also noted that Title VII of the bill sets aside a portion of visa fees for “a job training and job development fund for underemployed populations.” She said that the bill would make it more difficult for Americans on the National Sex Offender Registry to apply for family-based visa petitions for a spouse or child abroad. “Statutory provisions in criminal legislation have made it possible to deny visa petitions if the American sponsor has been convicted of any of a substantial list of criminal offenses,” she said. “Aside from the absence of due process in challenging such denials, the provisions are not comprehensive enough with respect to sex offenders.”

Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), said that immigration bills should include “a path to residency and citizenship for the undocumented living in the United States…Sixteen percent of all those who are foreign born live in poverty compared to 11.8 percent of the native born. One of the reasons for the higher number of foreign-born women in poverty is the fact that foreign-born women who are full time workers make less than their native born counterparts. For example, the median income for foreign-born women age 16 and over who are year-round, full time workers is $22,106 while the median income for native-born women is $26,640.”

Ms. Gandy continued, “Among the factors affecting low wages is the high percentage of immigrant women, both documented and undocumented, working in the service industry, primarily in domestic work. Forty-two percent of private household services are provided by immigrants under arrangements that are often informal, prone to abuse and exploitation…Protections for domestic workers must be included in any immigration reform legislation. Domestic workers, in particular undocumented immigrant women, are faced with extremely low wages, working 60 to 70 hours per week or more for as little as $200 per week. This is exploitation, sometimes amounting to servitude or even slavery, under the most hostile conditions.”

Julie Kirchner, director of government relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), voiced concerns with the bill. “FAIR has always supported the reunification of nuclear family members. However, the preferences for extended family members built into our immigration laws have created the problem of chain migration, by which extended family members enter the country and are then able to petition for the entry of their extended family members, and the cycle repeats itself. Immigration thus grows at an ever-increasing pace and the ability of Congress and the American people to set annual caps or limits is effectively eliminated…On top of all this, the Save America Act effectively contains four amnesty provisions…Granting amnesty to illegal aliens will not solve our immigration crisis it simply motivates more illegal aliens to come here seeking amnesty. The American people are looking to Congress to break the cycle of this flawed approach, one which is sadly becoming our de facto American immigration policy. Amnesty sends a message to people worldwide that America no longer cares about the enforcement of its laws. Moreover, it sends a terrible message to legal aliens that their respect for our laws is irrelevant to how they will be treated.”

Also testifying were Reps. Nancy Boyda (D-KS), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX); Dr. William Spriggs, chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University; Gregory Siskind, partner at Siskind Susser Bland; Charles H. Kuck, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Christopher Nugent, senior counsel at Holland and Knight, LLP; and T. J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council of the American Federation of Government Employees of the AFL-CIO.

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