Senate Immigration Bill: Unfair, Unjust, Unwise
United Methodist Women has deep concerns with “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity & Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) passed by the Senate on June 27. Hailed as a historic vote in advancing comprehensive immigration reform, the legislation offers a grueling pathway to citizenship for a limited number of immigrants while authorizing unprecedented militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border.
“We desperately need immigration reform, but this is not the reform we need,” stated Harriett Jane Olson, United Methodist Women’s general secretary and CEO. “As we pause this week to celebrate Independence Day, it is a moment to look deeply into the vision and meaning of this nation.”
We understand the national debate on immigration as part of this ongoing civil rights agenda in the United States—an agenda that calls us to live up to the vision of a just and inclusive nation. Our nations’ leaders are prioritizing military spending over the health and well-being of our communities.
Brutal elements of border security
Brutal new elements of border security changed the character of Senate Bill 744. As amended, the bill:
- Requires law enforcement to apprehend 90 percent of the people coming across the border without proper papers.
- Escalates the enforcement budget from $4.5 billion to $46 billion.
- Doubles the number of border patrol officers from 20,000 to 40,000.
- Requires construction of an additional 700 miles of double border fencing, waiving environmental protections regarding wall construction.
- Expands drone and other forms of surveillance through a 24 hour “virtual fence.”
- Makes the E-verify system obligatory for all employers.
Women and children will not benefit from bill
This is unfair, unjust and unwise. United Methodist Women sees the faces of those who will not benefit from this bill:
- Families served by our National Mission Institutions near the border who fear seeking services because of harassment by the border patrol.
- A domestic worker who cannot get on the pathway to citizenship because an employer laid her off and she hasn’t been able to find a job in less than the 60-day unemployment window.
- A woman with provisional status ineligible for Medicaid so cannot afford to take her children to the doctor.
- An older woman, working and paying taxes in the United States for decades, who won’t access Social Security during a minimum 13-year wait for citizenship.
- The thousands of families divided due to an intensification of detention and deportation policies.
- An immigrant woman incarcerated because of lack of papers, forced to give birth in shackles.
- An unauthorized immigrant woman who arrived after the cut-off date for legalization who fears detention and losing custody of her children.
Toward humane immigration policy
United Methodist Women rejects the disciplinary nature of the current Senate immigration bill and proposals in the House of Representatives. “Rather than target and criminalize immigrants for coming to the United States without papers, we must address the reasons that migrants are forced to come. Human rights and racial justice must be at the core of both U.S. economic and immigration policy,” said Janis Rosheuvel, executive for racial justice.
According to United Methodist Women’s resolution “Criminalization of Communities of Color in the United States,” policies such as S. 744 “render whole communities of color … as guilty until proven innocent. … This approach is based on a theology and worldview of scarcity. In contrast, The United Methodist Church affirms, ‘God’s vision of abundant living is a world where we live out a theology of “enough” for all.’”
As people of faith, this is a key moment to bring our theologically grounded policy proposals to our leaders. United Methodist Women members will continue to raise their voices for just and humane polices. We hope to infuse immigration reform with a much-needed reorientation toward human rights for immigrant women, children and families.
United Methodist Women National Office reiterates our core concerns for just immigration reform:
- Offer a rapid and affordable pathway to citizenship for all unauthorized immigrants.
- Offer public services, including health care, to immigrants regardless of status.
- Reunite families and keep families together.
- Protect the labor rights of both immigrant and U.S. workers.
- Guarantee due process and protect the civil and human rights of all immigrants.
- Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border
- End enforcement practices that criminalize migrants because of their status.
- Address migrant women’s rights: precarious work conditions, protection and redress from violence.
- Develop humane economic, trade and foreign policies to reduce forced migration.
- Suspend detention and deportation of migrants and shift resources to underserved communities.
“United Methodist Women has worked tirelessly for justice for immigrants,” said Carol Barton, executive for community action and coordinator of United Methodist Women’s Immigrant and Civil Rights Initiative. “These turn of events makes it more urgent for us to continue our advocacy for positive immigration reform.”