A Statement of Principles
Building a Bridge to the Future
As a group of stakeholders* in the immigration reform debate, representing diverse political positions, professional sectors and geographic locations, we share an understanding that we are a nation of immigrants who have contributed to and shaped America. Yet our immigration system is in disarray, is inhumane and does not meet the changing needs of America. We assert that certain values and principles must guide our advocacy for its repair and renewal.
We agree that America’s immigration policy must:
■ Uphold the values of democracy and pluralism that underpin our nation.
■ Uphold family unity as the foundation of successful communities. Include a method of determining future flows of immigration that focuses on family reunification, and a means of eliminating current backlogs for family-based immigrant visas and legal permanent resident status.
■ Advance economic growth by developing a flexible mechanism for admission to the US that anticipates labor market needs and responds effectively to global competition, acknowledging that immigrants, as workers, tax payers, and consumers, positively impact the economic strength of our nation.
■ Enhance the security of America’s borders with a rational and cost-effective approach that protects border residents, prevents unauthorized entry, and removes those involved with criminal activity. Ensure that all actions are consistent with the protection of basic human rights and human dignity.
■ Protect the integrity of every person’s labor – native and foreign-born – including the right to a minimum wage, to standard hours, safe conditions, and recourse against any unfair treatment. The system must protect all workers, provide efficient channels of entry for both temporary and permanent workers, and create a tamper-proof identification system with built-in protections.
■ Insist that all detention and other law enforcement procedures are as humane and non-coercive as possible, regardless of nationality or status, and include appropriate due process protections. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
■ Include a means of eliminating current backlogs for employment-based immigrant visas and legal permanent resident status.
■ Offer an earned path to legalization for unauthorized residents who have otherwise lived within the law, and are willing to take steps like registering, paying a fine, and learning English.
■ Provide access to higher education and military service as precursors to legalization for undocumented youth, as future productive members of society.
■ Increase the number of visas for graduate students to study in fields such as science, technology and medicine, and provide a system for transitioning these to employment visas.
■ Promote integration and citizenship by making available English language and American civics education for immigrants and their children, so that they can realize their potential, and fully contribute to and feel included in, American society.
■ Therefore, we the undersigned agree that these principles should be the touchstones for national immigration reform. We urge our elected officials and other civic leaders to make immigration reform a priority so that we can achieve a vision of America that incorporates our country’s founding values of democracy, social justice, pluralism and social cohesion, and that protects our nation’s economic and security needs by adherence to the principles outlined above.
* The Bridging America Project (BAP) has been developed and implemented by the AJC (American Jewish Committee) in cities across the country, with support from the Ford Foundation. The BAP has convened Task Forces, comprised of stakeholders in the immigration issue from varied sectors of their communities, to broaden the base of support for immigration reform. In June, 2011, 120 alumni of these Task Forces and other invited stakeholders came together in Washington, DC, for the Building a Bridge to the Future Immigration Summit, to strengthen their network, find common ground and consider new strategies for immigration advocacy. Included at this gathering were conservatives and evangelicals; representatives from the business, labor, law enforcement, healthcare and education sectors; and those who have long worked as advocates in the cause of immigration reform. This Statement emanates from the participants of that Summit.