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5/18: Senate Immigration Deal Raises Serious Concerns for South Asian
Released 21 May 2007  By South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow

Senate Immigration Deal Raises Serious Concerns for South Asian

South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow

Senate Reaches Deal on Immigration Reform

Yesterday [On May 17], a group of Senators concluded back-room negotiations and reached a deal on an immigration bill. The bill is set for a vote on Monday, May 21, to determine whether it goes to the Senate floor for debate. If the vote passes on Monday, debate on the bill will run until Memorial Day.

The immigration reform package that the Senate is now considering raises serious concerns for the South Asian community. While the package creates a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, it severely undermines the current family-based immigration system by eliminating the adult children and sibling categories of the family-based immigration system. It also establishes an unworkable "merit-based" point system for green card applications, creates a guestworker program with no path to citizenship, and lacks sufficient due process protections.

Based on what we know so far, here is what is included in the bill:

Elimination and reduction of certain family-based categories. Visas for parents of U.S. citizens would be capped, while green cards for the siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and green card holders are entirely eliminated. While applications in the current backlog would be cleared within 8 years, anyone who applied after May 2005 would have to reapply. This will have tremendous impact on South Asians who have relied on the family-based system for decades to reunify families.

New merit-based point system for green cards for all applications received after May 2005. Applicants would compete for green cards and points awarded would heavily favor employment criteria. Other points would be awarded for speaking English, attaining higher education, and having family in the U.S. This system will create a second class of individuals who are unable to move down the path to permanent residency.

Guest worker program for future immigrants without a path to citizenship for all through a new "Y" visa. Temporary visas would be valid for two years and can only be renewed if the worker spends a year outside the U.S. and does not bring any accompanying family members. Workers must also provide affidavits of support and proof of medical insurance.

Path to legalization for undocumented immigrants through a new renewable "Z" visa. Applicants could undergo a background check and pay a $5,000 fee in order to be eligible for a green card. They could apply for citizenship after a certain number of years and returning home during that time.
Border enforcement triggers need to be met before legalization and new worker programs could be implemented. This includes increased fences, barriers, and personnel.
Due process concerns with the expansion of immigrant detention, stiffening of the definitions of "aggravated felony" and "fraud" and issues relating to state and local law enforcement.

What can you do?

The Senate is moving fast on this legislation - with the possibility that debate could start next week. Here are a few easy steps that you can take to register your concerns with the bill and get more involved:

1. Call you Senators TODAY and all next week: Tell them to oppose the Senate proposal because it eliminates family categories; includes an unworkable merit-based point system; fails to address the visa backlog; excludes new workers from gaining citizenship; and violates due process. Urge them to instead support reform that provides workable legalization; clears the visa backlog; includes robust worker protections; and balances civil rights with national security. You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (800) 828-0498 to be connected with your Senator.

2. Email SAALT with stories of how you and your family could be impacted by the elimination of family sponsorship categories or the creation of a new point system for green cards . We want to document specific stories of South Asians for use in media and advocacy. Send us a note at saalt@saalt.org .

3. If you are in the Washington DC area or know people who are, encourage them to come out to the upcoming events that SAALT will be participating in on May 22:

On Tuesday, May 22, SAALT's Executive Director, Deepa Iyer, will be testifying before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. She will be discussing how immigration reform impacts the South Asian community. The hearing will occur at 2:00 pm in 2235 Rayburn House Building, Washington, DC.

On Tuesday, May 22, SAALT's Policy Consultant, Priya Murthy, will be participating in a congressional staff briefing, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: What it Means to the Asian Indian Community." The briefing will occur at 3:00 pm in Room HC-6 of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
For more information on these briefings, please contact us at (301) 270-1855 or saalt@saalt.org.

4. Forward this action alert to your friends and family. Simply click on the "Forward email" link below to spread the word within the community about the proposed bill and what steps we can take towards immigration reform.

If you have any further questions, contact us at saalt@saalt.org.


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