Written by Emily Mullins
United Church of Christ immigration advocates are urging members to call their senators to protest immigration bill amendments that would delay or narrow the pathway to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. At least six amendments proposed by four senators are being considered that would make citizenship less accessible by imposing additional restrictions and excessive and costly increases in border security.
"The amendment process is sometimes used to weaken the proposed legislation, or to burden it with onerous requirements," said the Rev. Mari Castellanos, UCC policy advocate for domestic issues. "This is precisely what is happening with the immigration reform bill, and we hope UCC members and advocates make their voices heard to prevent these amendments from becoming a legislative reality."
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform, initiated the action alert. Individuals are urged to contact their senators to oppose amendment No. 1225, proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and amendments proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). For a complete list of the amendments and their details and for information on how to contact a senator, visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website.
Another controversial amendment, proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have required strict border security goals to be met for six months before undocumented immigrants could apply for legal status, was defeated by a Senate vote June 13.
While most of the amendments would make the pathway to citizenship less accessible by requiring increased border security measures, specific attention is also being paid to the amendment proposed by Rubio, a key member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight." According to this amendment, in order for immigrants with registered provisional immigrant status to get a green card, they would have to meet the same eligibility requirements for English and civics as someone applying for full citizenship, a much tougher standard than what is currently in place.
Other amendments would require 10,000 additional border officers and agents at a cost of $24 billion, and the completion of hundreds of miles of new border fencing at a cost of more than $49 billion.
"In the case of these amendments, the red herring is sealing the border, which is already incredibly militarized," said Castellanos. "The trickle of border crossers still making the attempt takes place in remote areas, so desolate that many perish trying. Sadly, most of our southern border is a place secured by tall fences topped with barbed wire, patrolled night and day by heavily-armed guards, with the ubiquitous choppers circling 24-7. It is quite challenging to imagine what further level of protection lawmakers envision."