NIJC Calls on U.S. Senate to Seize Bipartisan Momentum and Introduce a Comprehensive Immigration Bill

February 13, 2013

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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) continues to be encouraged by the bipartisan enthusiasm in Washington, D.C., to build an immigration system that works.

“Now that the Obama administration and Congressional leaders from both parties have had the opportunity to share their frameworks for reform, it is time for concrete action toward the goal of passing a fair, humane, and efficient immigration law this year,” said NIJC Policy Director Royce Bernstein Murray following today’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

During the hearing, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano—who has overseen the administration’s deportation of more than 1 million people in the past four years—acknowledged that the U.S. border is secure. She told senators that “this is the moment” for Congress to create an immigration system that provides a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million people living in the United States without immigration papers.

NIJC agrees with Secretary Napolitano that “deporting 11 million is not only impractical, but inconsistent with our values.” As NIJC noted in written testimony submitted for the hearing, the U.S. government now spends more on immigration enforcement agencies than on all of its other criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined. Meanwhile, the government has failed to put similar resources into our justice system to manage the influx in cases, which means thousands of people are being deported without access to lawyers or a fair day in court. Furthermore, DHS has failed to operate meaningful oversight over a detention system which in 2012 held more than 420,000 people, a number of whom have experienced medical neglect, mistreatment, and solitary confinement. These enforcement measures come at a significant human cost, including the separation of thousands of U.S. citizen children from their deported parents. This is not an efficient or moral use of taxpayer resources. America deserves better.

NIJC applauds journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning undocumented immigrant who served as a witness at today’s hearing, and Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Al Franken (D-MN) for speaking out to remind Congress that immigration policy at its core is about how our country treats people and families. We also appreciate Secretary Napolitano’s recognition that LGBT couples should receive equal treatment as families.

“America’s dialogue on how to create a fair and humane immigration system has made significant strides in recent months,” Murray said. “It is now time for Congress to put those words to action and create an immigration law that does justice to the courage shown by Vargas and the thousands of aspiring Americans he represented in today’s hearing.”