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April 27, 07

NEWS / Gutierrez-Flake bill: anti-immigrant, antilabor

CHICAGO—An “immigration reform” proposal by U.S. president George Bush says that some undocumented immigrants could be eligible for a three-year work visa at the cost of $3,500 each time they renew it. It includes stiff restrictions on eligibility and requires applicants to pay a $10,000 fine and return to their country of origin to apply for residency.
Bush’s plan also calls for extending a border wall, more border cops, and a special ID for immigrants.

The White House proposal is overwhelmingly opposed by immigrant workers and their supporters.

Another equally antiworker proposal, however, is being hailed as “progressive” by a number of immigrant rights groups such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). That’s the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act (STRIVE), introduced in the House of Representatives by Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, and Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona.

Purportedly offering a path to citizenship, the Gutierrez-Flake bill would not be implemented until border surveillance, with new technology and more border patrols, are put in place. While speaking for this bill at an April 14 public meeting here, Gutierrez said the ID it would require for qualifying immigrants “is better than a license. It has your picture on the front and your fingerprint on the back and it is a visa to enter the country.”

Besides this federal ID, which will be used to keep tabs on and control workers, STRIVE calls for harsher penalties for those using false documents. It adds at least 20 detention centers with the capacity to hold 20,000 individuals. It criminalizes anyone who “encourages, directs, or induces a person to come to or enter the United States” or “to reside in the United States” without proper documents.

STRIVE’s residency eligibility portions apply only to those who entered the United States before June 1, 2006, can provide proof of employment, pay a $500 fine, and receive a security clearance. These immigrants would then need to work in the United States for six years, during which they would need to learn English before applying for residency.

Those who jump over these hurdles would then have to leave the country, pay another $1,500 and any back taxes for all years of employment in the United States, and go to the end of the line to have their application considered. In the case of a family, only the head of the household must leave the country. With the backlog of residency applications today, this process would take many years.

The STRIVE Act includes a “guest worker” program allowing 400,000 immigrants to enter the United States every year and work on a temporary basis. This provision would institutionalize a superexploited part of the workforce. These workers can be fired at the whim of their boss and, if they don’t find another job within 60 days, they will be deported.

The Gutierrez-Flake bill also gives local police and other cop agencies powers to enforce immigration laws.

Last year’s mass mobilizations for immigrant rights defeated the Sensenbrenner bill, which would have criminalized all the undocumented and those who aid them. They showed how immigrant workers, who have become part of the hereditary proletariat in this country—workers who can expect that they and their children will remain part of the permanent working class in the United States—have added renewed strength to the working class as a whole.

Gutierrez, who spoke at rallies last year opposing the Sensenbrenner bill, and groups like the ICIRR that helped build last spring’s actions, including the May Day strike, demanding legalization for all, describe the STRIVE Act as a realistic proposal for immigration reform.

It may be realistic for safeguarding the bosses’ interests, but it is antilabor to the core. Working people and the labor movement should oppose it, just like Bush’s plan, and instead organize and back actions demanding unconditional legalization of all undocumented—now.

Rollande Girard is a garment worker and member of UNITE HERE. Ernie Mailhot is a meat packer.


Tags: residency application, document, legalization,


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