For Immediate Release
January 8, 2004
For More Information, Contact
Jessica Culley 856-881-2507
Nelson Carrasquillo 856-881-2507
Bush Speaks on Immigration
On Wednesday, January 7th, President Bush presented the broad outlines of a proposal on immigration. Although he praised the importance of immigrant workers and their contributions to the U.S. economy, appearances can be deceiving. Here we provide a response from CATA – El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas and a brief summary and analysis of his proposal.
CATA’s Declaration in Response to Speech by President Bush
We at CATA support a General Amnesty that provides all undocumented workers with the ability to obtain a permanent work permit and that eventually allows the workers and their families to qualify for permanent residency and citizenship.
Any reform of immigration policy must provide the following guarantees to all workers:
1. Opportunity for permanent residency,
2. Family reunification,
3. Adequate work conditions,
4. Fair wages that are at least equal to the prevailing wage in the area, and
5. the same protections guaranteed by state and federal laws to citizens.
President Bush’s proposal is nothing more than the re-institutionalization of the Bracero Program in order to ensure a underclass of cheap labor for employers. Under the Bracero Program, employer’s responsibilities to their employees were not specified. Workers were subject to the whims of their employers with few protections if their visas were cancelled. There were also practically no guarantees of protection in reference to workers´ housing or health.
We at CATA understand that this proposal by President Bush may be positive in that it may provide a certain measure of relief to undocumented workers in no longer being pursued as criminals. This does not mean that it has opened the door to achieving a General Amnesty. On the contrary, if we understand the proposal, it is nothing more than the re-activation of the Bracero Program. An underclass of cheap labor, with few protections of their health and safety, and without equal guarantees as citizens would not affect only migrant workers, but all the country’s workers. Now represents an opportunity for a national dialogue to seek a consensus affirming the right to work, fair salaries, adequate working conditions, and workers’ right to organize and represent themselves in negotiating their working conditions.
Summary of Bush’s Proposal
1. The proposal would provide immigrants (inside and outside of the country) with the opportunity to apply for a temporary visa (that could be for up to three years) sponsored by an employer. Undocumented workers in the country would be required to pay a fine (amount is undefined) in order to qualify for the program.
2. It is possible that this temporary permit could be renewed, but not indefinitely.
3. Workers on a temporary permit could apply for permanent residence sponsored by the employer through normal immigration procedures.
4. When the temporary permit expires, although the person may be in the process to receive residency, they must leave the country to await the outcome.
5. As an incentive to return to their countries of origin, workers would be able to collect social security in their home countries.
1. The proposal would provide participating workers with the ability to cross the border legally, work without fear of deportation and of being treated like criminals.
2. A worker could collect social security benefits in their home countries.
1. The temporary work permit would be only for those who are sponsored by an employer. Undocumented workers in the country would be required to pay a fine.
2. The permit is only renewable one time. Afterwards the worker must return to their country of origin.
3. The existing system for soliciting residency is very long and slow. Following the proper channels, many people have to wait between 10 and 20 years.
4. There is no indication to how the proposal would pertain to those workers who are employed in seasonal work (such as agriculture, construction etc).
5. Workers who do not remain employed, who break the rules of the program, or the laws will not be eligible to continue participating in the program and will be required to return to their countries of origin.