Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Second Time’s a Charm?

By Guest Columnist Oct 14, 2009

Written by: Debayani Kar Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has just unveiled the contours of a new immigration reform bill meant to address the current legislative void as Obama administration officials move instead toward de facto reform through stepped up enforcement and “security” measures. Rep. Gutierrez presented his key principles for comprehensive immigration reform at a rally attended by thousands on Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Gutierrez outlines ten key principles for inclusion in a proposed bill he plans to introduce: pathway to legalization for undocumented workers, more effective border enforcement, humane treatment of immigrant detainees, labor protections, improved worker verification system, protections for family unification, improved employment-based visa system, farm worker protections, strengthening of the DREAM Act, and promoting immigrant integration. If Congress moves to actually debate an immigration reform bill that includes these protections, it would be an important step in the right direction. Whether moderate Democrats or right-wing Republicans will let such a debate come to pass is another story. Though Gutierrez’s principles leave room for improvement and seem intentionally vague. Maegan La Mamita Mala at VivirLatino sums up my hesitations:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely enthusiastic to see/hear what Gutierrez brings. I am much more likely to support him as a champion over Sen. Schumer. But I will not jump on a bandwagon just to move the debate forward if people get thrown under the bus.

There is some reason to be hopeful in Obama administration moves to reform immigration detention and local law enforcement officials choosing to drop participation in 287(g). But there are valid reasons to be concerned about whether proposed changes to the detention system will help immigrants, documented or otherwise. On October 22, ColorLines magazine will release an investigative series on families torn apart by deportation from New York to Jamaica. The Torn Apart article series and multimedia project will be available at The experiences detailed in the series provide a compelling argument for immediate and radical changes to the failed immigration detention and deportation system. Stay tuned!