Gloria M. Sandoval: Key questions on immigration reform go unanswered

July 12, 2013 

Immigration

In this June 13, 2013 picture, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jerry Conlin looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right. Illegal immigration into the United States would decrease by only 25 percent under a far-reaching Senate immigration bill, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that also finds the measure reduces federal deficits by billions. (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)

GREGORY BULL — AP

The June 13 Merced Sun-Star editorial "Immigration bill hanging by a thread" prompted me to write.

Increased immigration into the United States can be traced to the business/trade agreements that favored rising sales and profits for U.S. businesses but that has resulted in a displaced work force for Mexico and Central America.

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreements) and, on the horizon, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have not favored the working people of any of these countries. In fact, these treaties have caused many to lose their livelihoods.

Borders have been opened to multinational corporations, but small farmers and artisans have been hurt in the process.

Most undocumented immigrants have arrived in the United States to make a living to help support their families because they have had few or no options in their own countries.

Politicians, whether Democrats or Republicans, are wheeling and dealing the positions of their wealthy corporate supporters and lobbyists. And immigration reform is being debated and may result in compromises that again will benefit the corporations and not the human beings that are living in the shadows of our society.

The southern border is already a war-zone. Deaths and abuses are increasing. We are developing more jobs for Americans by pumping up border security through hiring more agents or possibly sending the National Guard to patrol.

More and higher fences, drones, night vision equipment, are further militarizing the border.

There is a proposal to spend $6.5 billion for additional border security measures which will most likely include surveillance by drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) and ground surveillance systems. War in the Middle East is winding down but war at the border is escalating.

What is being gained by all this? Again, corporations will be the big winners.

Perspective is important. Politicians are debating what the 11 million undocumented people will be allowed to get, not what is rightfully already theirs. True that many are living without the legal permission, but are actually benefiting the great majority in the United States in many ways.

Megabucks have been made by corporations with private detention centers. Racial profiling has violated the rights of citizens. Secure Communities (a k a S-Com) is a government program that has been deporting the very farmworkers that agricultural businesses are now reporting as scarce. Some are even experiencing wage increases due to the high demand and few available to work in field work.

Let's not forget that many of the 11 million undocumented individuals are paying for services but not getting them and have not been getting them for years.

The immigration reform plan will exclude these same individuals from any benefits anywhere from five (for Dreamers) to 15 years for those who have already lived here 20 to 30 years. They are additionally excluded from the Affordable Care Act — in other words, are paying taxes but will not get any benefits.

This is a human and civil rights issue. It's not whether Democrats or Republicans win — but it's about what people need.

Our communities need jobs. If there are insufficient jobs, we need the government's temporary support to live and provide for families. This is no different for immigrant families and communities. Most are hard-working and good neighbors with talented kids, not criminals.

There are many questions that one must ask about the 11 million: How many are adults? How many are children? How many families have mixed U.S.-born and foreign-born children or spouses? How many own their homes or are paying rent? How many have a business or are paying for college costs or their cars? How many go to our houses of prayer? How many shop at Walmart or local markets and eat at fast-food restaurants?

They are already here — our neighbors, co-workers, classmates and Little League teammates.

How many are living in fear or whose families have been separated? Should they be excluded from receiving health care, food stamps or subsidized housing if they are living in poverty?

There is a whole other side of the story that needs to be told, heard and understood. These are some of the questions that are missing in the dialogue on Capitol Hill.

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Gloria M. Sandoval is a longtime Merced resident and president of the California Central Valley Journey for Justice

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