Statement by the Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee, July 17, 2013
Democratic Socialists of America has long fought for a swift path to citizenship for all undocumented workers and their dependents. As socialists, it is our conviction that all those who contribute labor to a society should have the full rights of citizenship.
As of today, the Republican majority in the House remains the major obstacle to moving towards this goal. Speaker John Boehner refuses to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the House floor unless a majority of the Republican caucus favors doing so. By frustrating the majority will of the entire chamber, Boehner threatens to preclude any immigration reform beyond further wasteful and deadly militarization of our border with Mexico.
DSA will join the efforts of the immigrant rights and labor movement to pressure House Republicans to bring a bill to the floor that includes a clear path to citizenship for all undocumented people. At the same time, we will work with our allies to change those parts of the Senate bill that restrict the labor rights of those on the path to citizenship, exclude large numbers of the undocumented from said path and accelerate the violent and wasteful militarization of the border.
Most of organized labor and the immigrant rights and Latino advocacy community critically support the Senate-passed S 744 — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 — because it provides a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers. Thus, they are pushing for the House to take up the Senate bill. While DSA understands this decision, we also will work with the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) and grassroots groups who raise fundamental questions about the Senate bill itself because it promises to further militarize the border and increase the harassment of borderlands communities.
The Senate bill provides an arduous 13-year path to citizenship for the large majority — but not all — of the approximately 11 million undocumented workers. It would grant legal status to millions of immigrants and their dependents, and allow them to work and travel without fear of deportation. But as those embarking on the lengthy road to citizenship cannot go more than 60 days without employment, the Senate bill would severely hamper immigrants from defending their rights in the workplace. In addition, the minimum of $3,750 in fees during the path to citizenship will put full citizenship out of the reach of many.
Those who do gain legal status will be barred during their 10-year provisional waiting status from accessing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the requirement to document continuous previous stay in the United States could bar at least three million undocumented immigrants from gaining legal status. The expanded use of the inaccurate E-Verify system would also arbitrarily exclude hundreds of thousands from gainful employment and threaten their legal status. The bill also abandons family reunification as the primary aim of the immigration system and moves to a corporate-driven high-tech worker visa expansion as well as a guest worker program for manual and agricultural labor.
DSA will join the immigrant rights community in working to eliminate the unjust and punitive provisions from any final bill and will join protest and lobbying efforts to get before both the House and Senate a final comprehensive immigration bill that includes provisions for immediate legal status for all undocumented peoples and an expeditious, affordable path to citizenship.
The most heinous parts of the Senate bill involve a further militarization of the border, the price Republican senators exacted for endorsing the bill. The Senate bill would add $46.3 billion in expenditure on border enforcement over the next decade, even though the annual amount spent on border enforcement already exceeds the total expenditure of all other federal security agencies. The bill calls for doubling the number of Border Patrol agents to almost 40,000 over the next ten years, It also expands the area within the United States in which Border Security can patrol, and will thus ramp up the unjust harassment of borderland communities. These programs are a financial boondoggle for military contractors and for the private prison industry. Nor will the actions curtail undocumented immigration.
In contrast, the Senate bill continues the requirement that aspiring citizens must demonstrate English proficiency, but provides only $100 million in additional funding. This doesn't begin to meet the needs. An estimated 5.8 million legal permanent residents, and 6.4 million undocumented immigrants have limited English proficiency. It would take between $11.5 and $23 billion total to equip immigrants with the language skills they need. Instead of militarizing the border, the Congress should adequately fund opportunities for immigrants to learn English.
DSA views the struggle for just immigration reform as an integral part of the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights and for democracy.