“We appreciate President Bush’s recognition of America’s welcoming tradition and immigrant roots, but his proposal contradicts that tradition,” responded Beatriz Maya, Director of FLOC’s immigrant rights campaign.
FLOC considers imperative an honest discussion on these issues that involves sound proposals. “We are lacking alternatives,” continued Baldemar Velásquez, President of FLOC. FLOC and area growers have met with legislators to push for immigration reform that will address the severe shortage of farm workers in the nation.
“Addressing the need for future workers through a temporary worker program is simply bad policy,” continued Velásquez.
“What is the message we want to give to Latin America? That we need them to come to work but we don’t want them to stay and be a part of this community? The U.S. will be host to millions of workers who would form a permanent, even if rotating, underclass of people who have no rights and no path to citizenship.
“We propose the development of a Freedom Visa, with freedom to travel and work with full rights and dignity for all workers,” added Velásquez.
“The President’s proposal showed some progress in recognizing that any immigration reform must provide a path to residency for immigrants, but regularizing the status of only some of them will leave millions in the shadows and punish many long-time resident workers.
The proposal will also severely penalize employers, turning them into immigration agents as they would be forced to use new biometric identification cards to verify employment records.
“The militarization of the border will likely lead to more human rights violations as such programs have in the past.”
“One thing that nobody talks about,” said Velásquez, “is our international policies and its effects on the Mexican and Latin American economies.” The impact of the so called “free trade” has been the destruction of the rural economies in Latin America and the displacement of millions of peasants who end up here attracted by the availability of jobs.
“We should facilitate economic integration of the continent by leveling the playing field. If we want to integrate the economies we should integrate the safety nest, we should have a continental minimum wage,” continued Velásquez.
The Ohio Immigrant Network plans to continue the pressure on U.S. Senators and Representatives through lobbying and mass demonstrations. Miguel Gonzáles from MIGUATE (Mayan Immigrants from Guatemala) and RIO adds: “We know that this country can do better. We can have an immigration law that serves the nation and the hard-working, church-going, tax-paying immigrant population—and we will continue to press our government until we have it.”
“While President Bush has moved somewhat under the impact of demands from immigrants, churches, and labor unions, his proposal is still seriously flawed,” added Sylvia Castellanos with CODEDI in Cincinnati, co-founder with FLOC and others of the Ohio Immigrant Network (RIO), an alliance of several Latino immigrant groups throughout the state. “We don’t need troops on the border of our closest neighbor and most important economic and social partner.”