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4/4: The STRIVE Act is a False Promise
Released 17 April 2007  By Lillian Galedo, Executive Director, Filipinos for Affirmative Action

The STRIVE Act is a False Promise
By Lillian Galedo, executive director, Filipinos for Affirmative Action

OAKLAND, CA (4/4/07) -- On the street, true immigration reform means:
fixing the family reunification system so families won't be separated;
legalization for the undocumented without incremental phases that stretch
out for years; due process and equal rights for immigrants; immigrant
worker freedom from exploitation and employer abuse; and an end to the
criminalization of immigrants on the border and in the interior.

We also need a serious investigation of immigration's root causes --
economic, military, or environmental --which cause the dislocation of
people from countries of origin. What role do our country's policies play
in that dislocation? Our national blind spot is that we see immigration
one-dimensionally -- only from our side of the border.

Unfortunately, we're getting none of these things from Congress in
2007. Congress continues to view immigrants through a national security
and disposable worker lens, proposing harsh enforcement while it moves away
from permanent, family-based immigration toward temporary worker
programs. For the aspiring millions who spoke out for immigrant rights
last year, this is not the response we wanted.

STRIVE (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act
of 2007), introduced by Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Jeff Flake,
continues to mistakenly frame immigration policy as a national security
issue. In STRIVE, 'comprehensive immigration reform' means trading some
improvements in the family reunification system for greater numbers of
temporary workers, and the continued criminalization of
immigrants. Advocates for immigrant rights will not find a human rights
perspective in this bill.

STRIVE ramps up the militarization of the border and interior
enforcement. An electronic employment verification system and reporting
regulations will lead to increased racial profiling, more detentions and
deportations, and the spending of precious resources on more jails.

STRIVE increases employer sanctions. While sanctions don't prevent
employers from hiring the undocumented, they are a hammer over the heads of
immigrants; used to fire immigrant workers who organize or protest
mistreatment.

Thousands of families are waiting for an end to the backlogs that have
separated members for as many as 20 years. STRIVE does not increase the
current cap of 480,000 visas, so the reunification of separated families
will still take years. (In her very different bill, Congresswoman Sheila
Jackson-Lee has proposed to double family visas, which would go a long way
towards ending these terrible backlogs.)

STRIVE offers a 'path to citizenship' that could take two decades if an
applicant is able to satisfy excessive criteria. Applicants must first
endure a temporary status for 6 years. An immigrant can then apply for
permanent residence, but this won't kick-in until other applicants, already
in the pipeline for visas, have received theirs. Given current backlogs,
that could take 5 to 10 years, since STRIVE doesn't increase the number of
available visas. Also, Homeland Security must put in place a document
verification system and new border surveillance technology before
legalization can even start. That also could take years. Once legalized,
people would still have to wait at least five years more before gaining
eligibility for citizenship, pushing that goal to nearly two
decades. Throughout those years applicants must remain employed to keep
their application alive --a sure formula for employer abuse.

If STRIVE becomes law, the number of temporary visas (400,000+) will begin
to exceed the number of permanent resident visas, a trend supported by
President Bush. STRIVE increases temporary worker visas in spite of the
system's documented abuse. The Southern Poverty Law Center's recent report
"Close to Slavery" exposed yet again that intractable abuses are inherent
in temporary worker programs. With increased job competition, temporary
workers would jeopardize the already fragile place immigrants have in the
economy.

We have no need for temporary workers if we legalize the 10+ million
undocumented, and make visas available for the 4 million family members
whose applications are already approved.

STRIVE does include provisions like the DREAM Act, the AgJOBS Act, the
Strengthening American Citizenship Act, and would provide visas for the
sons and daughters of Filipino WWII veterans. These are all positive
measures that should be passed as separate bills.

We should not support a bill that does not offer a viable plan to legalize
the undocumented, shifts immigration policy away from uniting families to
provide employers with temporary workers, increases the likelihood of raids
and treats immigrants like criminals.

The STRIVE Act is a false promise when we desperately need real solutions.


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