Democratic Immigration Plan Draws Friendly Fire

Posted April 30, 2010 at 2:52pm

Senate Democrats are coming under fire for their comprehensive immigration reform proposal, even as pressure mounts to take the issue on in the aftermath of Arizona’s new state immigration enforcement law.

On Friday, the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities — which bills itself as one of the nation’s largest Latino immigrant organizations — denounced the Democrats’ plan as a missed opportunity and accused the majority of pursuing a punitive approach to illegal immigration based on xenophobia.

“We are profoundly disappointed that Senate Democratic leaders have chosen to continue down a path inspired by misinformation and prejudice against immigrant communities,” NALACC Board President Angela Sanbrano said.

“In the absence of support from the Republican Party, Democratic leaders in the Senate had a golden opportunity to provide principled and rational leadership by crafting a proposal premised on the reality of who immigrants are, as well as on the fact that immigrants continue to be a major economic asset for the country and the world,” she added.

The 22-page legislative summary, based on the now-defunct talks between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), would establish a series of border security benchmarks that must be met before broader reforms are enacted.

The bill also requires employers to ensure their workers are legal immigrants, includes new visa provisions for high-tech and low-skilled workers, and establishes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented people in the United States.

Wary of angering conservative-minded independents, Democrats have placed a particular emphasis on border security measures in their new proposal, which was rolled out by Schumer, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democratic leaders on Thursday.

NALACC is the second major organization to come out against the Democratic proposal. The Service Employees International Union issued a harshly critical statement on the framework on Thursday.

“We are deeply concerned with elements of their reform outline that appear to put enforcement-only mandates ahead of the practical immigration solutions that America needs,” SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Travel Association, a national trade association for the tourism and travel industry, called for an end to a growing boycott of Arizona over that state’s new controversial immigration law.

Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into law the measure that requires law enforcement verify the citizenship of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

The law has drawn sharp denunciations from civil rights organizations, calls for an international travel boycott of the state and demands that Major League Baseball scrap plans to hold the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix.

“The situation in Arizona further highlights the need for federal action on immigration reform. The longer Congress delays action on this issue, the greater the likelihood for divisive and detrimental policies,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said in a statement.