Derechos Opposes Hoeven-Corker Amendment: New Immigration Bill is a Step Backward for Border Communities and Many Immigrant Families

Arizona Groups Call on National Immigrant Rights Advocates to Not Sell Out the Border

For the past 20 years border communities have disproportionately suffered from an “enforcement first” approach to immigration policy. The size of the Border Patrol has grown more than five-fold. Residents within 100 miles of the border now live within a “constitution-free zone,” where their civil rights and liberties are consistently ignored. In their zeal for “border security,” the Department of Homeland Security has recklessly implemented the largest waiver of law in American history, disregarding laws that protect the environment, cultural and historic sites, Indigenous sacred sites and America’s public lands. What is worse, the enforcement build-up is directly responsible for the more than 2,500 men, women and children who have died in the Arizona desert.

On June 21 the Senate “Gang of 8” introduced the Corker-Hoeven amendment, a massive overhaul of S. 744, the immigration reform bill that congress had been debating for months. This replacement bill is being railroaded through the congressional process, with Senate leaders declaring they hope to have a full vote on the legislation by the end of this week (June 28th). Among other things, the bill will now include the following provisions:

• 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, almost doubling the size of the agency (and more than triple the number that would have been added under the widely condemned Cornyn amendment)
• Hundreds of new miles of single or double-layered border fencing
• $3.6 billion to expand the use of drones and other surveillance technology along the border
• Full implementation of an entry-exit visa verification system at all U.S. ports of entry as a trigger to allowing registered provisional immigrant status (even Senator Cornyn questions whether this is realistic in the reasonably foreseeable future)
• 100% implementation of E-verify for all U.S. employers and employees
• Expansion of the waiver of all laws for construction of physical infrastructure, including a series of forward operating bases at the border
• Postponed implementation of a pathway to citizenship until all of the above are completed
• Increased fees that immigrants would have to pay to normalize their status
• Tripling of criminal prosecutions for border crossers (to 210 people daily at the Tucson Federal Courthouse) through “Operation Streamline” mass hearings
• Expansion of the prison population and private prison profits. Through Operation Streamline and related efforts, 82,250 individuals were criminally prosecuted for immigration violations in 2011 alone, constituting over 50% of all federal prosecutions, costing $1,023,615,633.60 and resulting in Latinos now representing more than half of the federal prison population (while only 16% of the national population).

In public statements celebrating the Corker-Hoeven replacement bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham has exuberantly proclaimed: “we have practically militarized the border.” Graham’s boasting indicates the Senator’s lack of concern regarding the already severe impacts of border militarization on the over 6 million U.S. citizens, immigrants, and indigenous peoples who live in the southwest borderlands, and the environment that sustains us.

The Senate’s replacement bill exacerbates all of these trends, to unthinkable proportions. If this proposal moves forward, we feel that the damage to our communities will be so great that we will no longer be able to support this bill. National advocates need to be honest about the state of negotiations. Republicans have made the pathway to citizenship so onerous and restricted that millions will never qualify. Prior to the Corker-Hoeven amendment the bill’s enforcement provisions and “triggers” were already unreasonable and burdensome. At what cost will we continue to make concessions? Thousands more border deaths? Our communities turned into a war zone or a police state? Massive destruction of our borderland environment? This price is too high to pay, and we ask our allies and supporters to join us in denouncing this “compromise” and demanding that the Senate begin again on a genuine reform effort, one that doesn’t play politics with our lives.

Make no mistake: this bill will lead to more deaths on the border. It is bad public policy, and it is a giant step backward for our communities and for many immigrant families. Our communities and families deserve better, and if this is the best that the Senate can offer we feel that our only option is to withdraw our support and demand that Congress begin again on crafting a genuine reform bill.

Coalición de Derecho Humanos

Alliance for Global Justice

No More Deaths / No Más Muertes

Tucson Samaritans

The Repeal Coalition

Humanitarian Border Solutions

Phoenix Allies for Community Health

Keep Tucson Together Clinica Legal Comunitaria

Corazón de Tucson

Occupy Tucson

Community of Christ of the Desert

American Friends Service Committee – Arizona

Southside Workers’ Center

Tucson Solidarity Organizing Network

Casa Mariposa