Immigration Reform Discussed at Latino Coalition Conference

May 4, 2005

Latino Coalition Conference, May 4, 2005
Washington DC

President Bush’s comments on immigration reform: “If you have a pass that says you are a willing worker and you have a willing employer then you should be able to walk across the border.”

Latino Coalition Conference
Immigration Policy

Panelist Introductory Remarks:

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D-Illinois) : “We have a flawed immigration system, it exploits bigotry [and] hatred. [Immigrants] don’t come here to take away, but they come here to give. Xenophobia is nothing knew. Immigrant bashing is nothing new, exploiting for political gain is.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) : “The problem exist. Illegal Immigration causes a lot of interesting developments. Enormous ramifications. Cheap labor and our need for cheap labor, is an issue. Employers benefit from cheap labor; workers from benefits. The other issue is national security. Is it just so wrong to suggest that the border has to be secure? We know that among those coming across the border, beyond those who are coming for jobs, are those who are coming for [an] ugly purpose, coming from countries of interests. It is crazy to suggest that this nation should not do everything possible to secure the border. Across the border are people transporting tons of narcotics. We can do it. We choose not it. Because number one we are addicted to cheap labor. [The] governments on other side of the border object. People coming in to the country are sending money home. Creating human exporters. We have a hard time getting through the clutter. If you want to do something about immigration then you must be a racist. This has nothing do to with race, ethnicity or country of origin. Black, white, brown and any shade in between have to come to grips with it.”

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah): “In America we have a remarkable coherent view about immigration. 86% [of Americans] believe that if a person is learning English, contributing to society, [has committed] no crime or [has a] disease they can have a pass to be a citizen. As Americans we are not racist. There is not much racism in America. At least 75% are concerned about the people here illegally and committing crimes. They want to solve the problem of crime. There is really not much difference of opinion. 3% of the population wants to kick out [the] undocumented. I don’t think there is a place in the Republican Party for racism, xenophobia, [and] for ideas that are fundamentally un-American. America is a great place: for discussion and debates. Immigration reform is inevitable.”

Moderator: Robert DePosada, Latino Coalition, President
Q: Any bi-partisan approach to see any legislation approved this year?

CC: “A bill will be passed fairly soon. Probably [the] McCain – Kennedy. That bill has momentum. [The] main issues have been dealt with … everything else is petty change. We are on a fast track.”
TT: “We need to secure the border. We cannot have immigration policy change, a guest worker program if the borders remain porous. What individual or employer [will] pay attention to a guest worker program when there are other ways [of entering the U.S.]. We need a common sense approach: enforce the law. If you hire someone who is here illegal, you are also in violation of the law. If we go after the employer, then you will go a long way to making something more positive. We can find people to do the jobs, that so many people believe can’t be done by anyone else. We can have a guest worker program, if you secure the border. No guest worker program cannot be acceptable that includes amnesty. Cannot reward people for breaking the law. Keep in mind these caveats.”
LG: “[The] caveats are [a] recipe for failure. It is a bi-partisan issue. In 1986, President Reagan signed a guest worker program. If you want to deal with national security, put [the] resources on terrorism, not on window-washers. You can take away their driver license, matricula consular, but 10 million undocumented workers will still be here. It does not solve the problem. We have been working together. We will look at the new technology to secure our border. We should regulate the flow. We had a bracero program that allowed people to come; it diminished illegal crossings.”

Moderator, Tamar Jacoby
Q: What will you do enforce the law and ensure the border is secure?

CC: “You cannot enforce the border unless you identify the good guys. Half of the people came on visas and then they stayed. We need a system that encourages the flow at the border that you can control. Then you can detect the problem. The guest program is the key to the whole thing. Temporary program will not solve the problem, because we need jobs year around.”
TT: “The other side has lost the rhetorical battle. We agree we need to secure the border.
Technology allows us the ability to do it. If you can bring your family with you, then that is immigration, that is not a guest worker program. Another avenue into America [is to] come in legally. What about this is so difficult? In terms of employers…on our part we are ignoring the laws. It’s against the law to hire people who are here illegally.”
CC: “I believe we should change the law as to employer sanction.”
TT to CC: “Is illegal immigration a crime?”
CC: “We are playing with words here. It is a crime today. The penalty is great[ly] disproportionate. If you are here illegally then you’re barred for 10 years.”
LG: “We have all agreed on border security and we all agree that we need to do something about inviting workers.”

Q: What do we do about the 11 million that are here illegally?

TT: “Go after the employer. If people don’t have a job, they’ll go home. Some people won’t. They need to be deported because that’s the law.”
LG: “Fine the 11 million. Make them pay for the FBI to check their fingerprints, ask them to come out of the darkness. If [they have] no criminal background, allow them to be [part of] a temporary program. Then put them in an indentured servitude program – to work their way into America. There will be no public benefits. Give them the opportunity to come out of the darkness, to avoid further exploitation. Immigration policy should be about family unification.”
CC: “Luis is being harsher on these issues, then I would be.”

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