Immigration reform passed another milestone today, as the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744. While we at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) and 1Love Movement stand strong with our friends and allies fighting for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented families, we lament the many financial and administrative barriers that will keep millions of people in the shadows. The Senate bill would help clear family visa backlogs, helping some families reunite more quickly, but it would also represent a paradigm shift away from the family immigration system that has always been this country’s foundation. We are glad to see new protections for refugees and asylum seekers, but know that increased militarization of our borders will threaten human rights and due process for migrants and border communities and will result in intense policing, racial profiling, and mass incarceration.
Most disturbingly to SEARAC and 1Love Movement, the Senate bill only worsens the draconian policies that have created a deportation crisis in our communities. The bill actually expands the broad range of crimes that can result in mandatory deportation, and it does nothing to allow judges to consider each individual’s unique circumstances in these cases. These policies rob many refugees and immigrants of the basic right to tell their story to a judge before being sentenced to a lifetime of exile. We have seen countless fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and valued community members ordered deported based on mistakes they made years ago, often in their youth. At SEARAC and 1Love Movement, we believe people should be judged not solely for what they once did, but for who they are today.
SEARAC executive director, Doua Thor stated: “We know that we are only at the beginning of a long-term struggle. We are building power and voice from within our communities. Individuals impacted by deportation as the result of an encounter with the criminal legal system are speaking out for the values we hold dear as a community: values of family, redemption, second chances, fairness, and community healing.”
1Love Movement co-founder, Mia-lia Kiernan, added: “The Senate bill does not have the answers we are seeking for our communities, and in fact threatens our communities further. But we will continue building alliances with communities working to challenge racial profiling and mass incarceration, to improve and strengthen educational opportunities for our youth, and to promote strong and powerful communities. In short, we will continue to build a movement to fight for immigration and criminal justice reform that reflects our values in the months and years to come.”