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ADL Urges U.S. Senate to Pursue 'Comprehensive and Fair' Immigration Policy

New York, NY, October 8, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged the United States Senate to pass an immigration reform policy that is "comprehensive, strategic, fair and humane."

In testimony submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, the League said reform proposals which focus solely on enforcement "are ineffective" because they fail to deal with the broader issues of maintaining security and protecting civil liberties.

"There is no benefit to our nation's growth if part of its population is treated as an underclass and is denied basic human rights," the League said in its testimony.  "Without a comprehensive approach, out of frustration and perhaps community pressures, localities continue to create haphazard and inconsistent regulations that attempt to 'handle' the issue of immigrants in their communities.

"These ordinances, which are mostly hostile toward immigrants, affect not only the undocumented population, but also legal residents and U.S. citizens.  They send a message that 'you are not welcome in our community.'"

ADL said "vital elements" of a comprehensive immigration reform policy should include:

  • Border security screening enhancements and a security strategy which includes fair and humane treatment of those who enter or attempt to enter the U.S.;
  • An orderly system of authorized entry for temporary foreign workers; 
  • A path to legalization for immigrants who are already contributing to this country;
  • A priority placed on keeping immigrant families together and clearing backlogs in the system;
  • A policy that takes into consideration, and strives to protect, civil and human rights.
  • Granting immigrant students who would otherwise face barriers to higher education the opportunity to be an integrated, contributing part of their community.

The League's testimony was submitted in the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship hearing on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives." 

The full text follows:

ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE

TESTIMONY FOR
Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship
Hearing on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives"

October 8, 2009


The Anti-Defamation League is pleased to provide testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship concerning the critical need in this nation for an immigration reform policy that is comprehensive, strategic, fair and humane.  As a country built by and for immigrants, it is incumbent on all of us to look at this issue in its totality.

The Anti-Defamation League is a nearly 100-year old human relations and civil rights organization that has committed itself to the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate of all kinds, to defend democratic ideals and protect civil rights for all.  Throughout the years, the League has been an advocate for civil rights and liberties and has worked to expose hatred in all forms.  At the same time, ADL has been an aggressive supporter of law enforcement and the government's important efforts to fight terrorism and has appreciated the necessity for strong national security.

ADL is steadfast in its belief that national immigration policy reform must be comprehensive, humane and take immediately.  The Jewish community unfortunately knows all too well the consequences of a restrictive immigration policy.   Our community's history, faith and traditions are our guide and require that we "welcome the stranger" with fairness, with care and with compassion. 

The Jewish community recognizes the need for a secure America and for the need to be vigilant against those who are opposed to democracy.  Particularly in a post-9/11 environment, we cannot be too careful about our security or about any counterterrorism measures.  However, many of the proposed immigration reform policies that focus solely on enforcement measures are ineffective, and fail to deal with the broader issue of how to maintain a secure America.  Further, while security measures are critical, it is equally critical that they be conducted with the utmost respect for civil liberties, consistent with our nation's basic ideals. 

There is no benefit to our nation's growth if part of its population is treated as an underclass and is denied basic human rights.  Yet, there is currently a large population of undocumented workers living in our communities who lack meaningful rights under our law and are subject to exploitation.  This group poses both security and civil rights problems.  Without a comprehensive approach, out of frustration and perhaps community pressures, localities continue to create haphazard and inconsistent regulations that attempt to "handle" the issue of immigrants in their communities.  These ordinances, which are mostly hostile towards immigrants, affect not only the undocumented population, but also legal residents and U.S. citizens. They send a message that "you are not welcome in our community." 

These troubling ordinances are not enacted in a vacuum.  For years, ADL has been monitoring and reporting on the toxic environment surrounding the immigration policy debate and the growing atmosphere of bigotry and violence targeting immigrants and those perceived to be immigrants, particularly Latinos.  And for the fourth consecutive year, the FBI has recorded an increase in hate crimes directed against Latinos.

This environment is troubling, and antithetical to the pluralistic principles of our democracy.  This is why immigration reform is urgent.  However, immigration reform must also be responsible and, in order to truly be considered comprehensive, must include these vital elements:

• Border security screening enhancements, the use of improved databases, more extensive international and federal-state-local coordination, and more effective visa tracking of aliens permitted to enter the country. 

• A border security strategy which include fair and humane treatment of those who enter or attempt to enter the United States.

• An orderly system of authorized entry for temporary foreign workers, which takes into consideration fairness and humane treatment of the participants, to replace the current illegal flow. 

• Students brought here as children, and educated here, but who face barriers to higher education, must be granted the opportunity to be an integrated, contributing part of their community. 

• A path to legalization for immigrants who are already contributing to this country, to enable them to regularize their immigration status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria.

• A priority placed on keeping immigrant families together, and clearing current backlogs in the system which have kept families separated for many years and, in some cases, have split families apart.

• Finally, as a nation of immigrants, America must have an immigration policy that takes into consideration, and strives to protect, civil and human rights. 

We are proud to be a nation of immigrants.  It is one of the dramatic success stories of world history.   Most of the people who cross our borders today contribute positively to our society.   However, our system has problems and there is an urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform that balances fairness, compassion and security.  The outcome of this policy reform, and the fate of undocumented persons in the United States, will speak volumes about our national character and ideals.

Last year, on the 50th anniversary of its original publication, ADL reissued John F. Kennedy's profound essay, A Nation of Immigrants.  As Senator Edward M. Kennedy wrote in his introduction to this edition, "Immigration reform is an opportunity to be true to our ideals as a nation.  At the heart of the issue of immigration is hope."


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The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.



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