White House hosts meeting to discuss Comprehensive Immigration ReformAugust 21, 2009
President Barack Obama told attendees during a meeting at the White House on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Thursday that, "Immigration is a problem that is begging to be fixed."
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), hosted the meeting of 130 immigration advocates, business, labor and law enforcement representatives.
At the meeting, Napolitano stressed that enforcement would be a priority, and that DHS is committed to the 287g program, in which local law enforcement organizations are tasked with enforcing immigration policies.
"I'm concerned that we are still hearing a very enforcement based approach to immigration reform. That kind of rhetoric drives people deeper into the shadows rather than bringing them forward where they can benefit from a legalization and registration program," said Shaina Aber, Associate Advocacy Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
"We urge Sec. Napolitano and the Administration to recognize that reform is the path to increased security; not enforcement first, reform later," added Aber.
Enforcement without real reform in immigration policies marginalizes immigrant communities, and makes them fearful of police. A representative from the Police Executive Research Forum noted that police chiefs throughout the country are lining up to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and are concerned that the 287g program detracts from their ability to create secure communities.
Real reform will also ensure that paths to immigration and legal status are not bogged down, and we are pleased that Sec. Napolitano wants to increase efficiency in immigration decisions. Families should not have to wait years to learn whether they can be reunited.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA urges Sec. Napolitano to recognize the real urgency for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Family separation, detention deaths and inexplicable delays to legal immigration paths are enforcing and unsustainable system.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA encourages Sec. Napolitano to use her position to display real commitment for change by standing up loudly and publicly to champion Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The bully pulpit of Cabinet Secretary should allow Sec. Napolitano to exert her leadership in this vital effort.
"I think it's an important first step to bring together diverse stakeholders, and I was pleased with the tone of the people who were invited to share ideas, said Aber.
"Ultimately the American people want to see the right thing done," President Obama said. JRS/USA agrees, and believes that the right thing is Comprehensive Immigration Reform that brings immigrants out of the shadows of fear and into the light of legal residency, ensuring a more secure and economically vibrant country for all.
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Mr Christian Fuchs
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