It's been quite a week.
Last week, many of us were celebrating the bold and public affirmations by government and elected officials that immigration reform is on the way. We smiled cautiously and optimistically in hopes that the administration and Congress finally understood the urgency behind the need to fix our broken immigration system.
Then, this week, we got thrown a curve ball. During Congressional debate over appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama offered an amendment to the proposed spending bill that would make it mandatory for all federal contractors to enroll in E Verify.
Most of us are very aware of the laundry list of flaws related to this program. From the errors that plague the database from which businesses must verify employers to the impact on legal workers who are likely to be affected due to misidentification and administrative errors. Studies have shown that E-Verify is error prone and vulnerable to numerous problems, including identity theft and false positives for legal workers. So, it’s no surprise most immigration advocates and businesses are opposed to its use.
Admittedly, while this news was disheartening, it was not completely surprising. We expect a battle in Congress and its why CLINIC in support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) continues to support a comprehensive solution to the nation’s broken immigration system and not enforcement-only responses.
So, we got over the amendment, sort of. Well at least we rallied our troops and kept on fighting.
Then, there was Secretary Janet Napolitano’s announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would make it mandatory for all federal contractors to enroll in E-Verify. And that wasn’t all; there were a number of other moves to increase funding for border fencing.
Once again, Congress and other government officials are turning first to enforcement, rather than a comprehensive and more complete solution to the nation’s immigration issue. As we have seen over and over, you cannot fix immigration with enforcement alone.
Granted, enforcement is important; and the Catholic Church, as one of the strongest advocates for immigrants, recognizes the need to protect the borders. However, this need must be fairly balanced. Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of USCCB Committee on Migration, noted that enforcement is not the answer to illegal immigration. As Bishop Jaime Soto, CLINIC Board Chairman, has reiterated, there is need for a humane and practical approach that recognizes and heeds the cries of immigrant families. That approach, coupled with the recurring call for reform from millions of families, is the most logical step for success.
Melissa Williams is the Public Affairs Officer at CLINIC