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Senate Bill — Beware of the Fine Print

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Many immigrants and activists would welcome almost anything over the racist and fervently anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) which was passed by the House in December. Unfortunately, the Senate “compromise,” largely modeled after the McCain-Kennedy proposal, is nothing to cheer about.

Under the proposed legislation, any undocumented immigrant who has been in the country less than two years would have to leave the country for good, effectively deported. Those who have been here between two and five years would also have to leave, but would be put on a waiting list to come back in a “legal” manner.

This is a lousy compromise for the millions of undocumented workers who would be forced to leave their jobs and families (many of them have children who are citizens) and return to their home country with the hope of being one of the 300,000 “low-skilled” workers given a U.S. work visa each year.

Those who have lived in the country over five years could stay, but it’s not a walk in the park for them either. $2,000 fines (in addition to normal application fees), back taxes, knowledge of English (mandatory), background checks; these are just some of the requirements to apply for citizenship – only after waiting another six years in a legal limbo.

The bill also sets up a guest-worker program to supply corporate America with low-wage, no-rights workers, a formula ripe for exploitation as we saw with the infamous bracero program.

In addition, the bill increases militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, with 12,000 new border patrol agents and new technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles. Already, it is estimated that over 400 migrants die each year trying to cross the border.

Socialists stand opposed to such legislation, which is still an attack on the civil rights of immigrant workers and their families. It creates a tiered system, holding immigrants down as second-class workers who don’t deserve the rights of their “legal” brothers and sisters.

No human is illegal! Workers must continue the struggle for equal rights, regardless of nationality. Strong demands and a fighting program, together with mass mobilization, is the only way to win such rights. ¡Sí, se puede!

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