Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama and Immigration

Dear Barack Obama,

I'd like to talk with you about immigration to see if I've got this straight, that is, what you think about the immigration issue.

In May of 2007, in the Senate, you said,
“The time to fix our broken immigration system is now… We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace… But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America… Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should.”
This is one issue where I'd like to be sure that when we go about fixing our "broken system," that we fix the right part. As a grandaughter of an immigrant, I feel like I'm just two heartbeats away from the "home country," so I'm quite glad for generous immigration policies.

I was listening to what you had to say:

I agree with you mostly. Here are some of your immigration-related ideas that I have been thinking about:

You talk about fixing the bureaucracy. That is really an area where there is a need for change. The hidden bureaucracy is where we should start. You talk about needing to speed up the process of doing background checks. I think that this is really true. In a world where computers can do a gazillion things per millisecond, it seems like we ought to be able to address this issue.

At the debate in Texas you said, "It is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we've got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. What's worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you've got a hard working immigrant family, they've got to hire a lawyer; they've got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just can't afford it. It's discriminatory against people who have good character, but don't have the money. We've got to fix that. We have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. The problem is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a US-Mexican relationship. Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working not just for the very wealthy in Mexico, but for all people."

A number of things about this statement ring really true to me. My grandfather came to this country with $11.00 in his pocket.(See Ellis Island document below.)

I sure agree that we don't want to price immigrants out of the American dream. You and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. Included in it are provisions that prohibit the increase in naturalization fees. And (another nice feature) it requires that test for citizenship be administered uniformly nationwide, with no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests. The age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when they take the tests.

I love that. It might allow for some consideration of immigrants who have served our country in the military.

Additionally, your emphasis on Mexico and a joint policy with the Mexican government is particularly important. Facts is facts, reality is reality. Mexico is our special situation. It is our border country. We share a history. And we share the economic problems driving both the legal and illegal transfer of population from Mexico to the United States. This idea is central to a great immigration policy. And here, I think, Bush has built a base to stand on. Save the distraction of the Iraq War, we may have made some headway at solving this problem.

I need to say something about fences and walls. I know you have said some things about local communities deciding for themselves what is effective in terms of physical barriers. And that's a safe position for a politician. But Robert Frost and I believe that something there is that doesn't love a wall. So rather than mending those walls we've got going down along the border, let's make a different music this next eight years.

I met this guy, Glen Weyant, while doing an article for Stimulus, the Alumni newsletter for the UT College of Social Work. Instead of building walls, he makes music by using the border fences as an instrument. Below is a rather strong expression of his views about the walls. I thought you might find it interesting. The music is created from the natural sounds electronically collected while "playing the wall."


Note to readers: Here are some other links to info.

On the Issues
Obama Position PDF

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