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As the 2008 election nears, immigration will no doubt play a major role in deciding the winners and losers. America’s Voice is leading the charge by sponsoring a project that will track the impact of immigration as an issue in these elections. We want comprehensive immigration reform to be a top priority for the elected officials who prevail in November. In fact, it is our view that road to common sense reform cuts right through the November election.

August 22, 2008

Our Reform Agenda

Our Reform Agenda

A Nation of Immigrants and a Nation of Laws

America’s Voice was created in 2008 to harness the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. It grew out of the pro-immigrant reform movement that built a broad bipartisan coalition over the last several years around a legislative package that would reduce illegal immigration, legalize the status of workers already in the U.S., reunite families, allow needed workers to enter legally rather than illegally, and restore the rule of law. In fact, in June of 2006, a comprehensive immigration reform bill was approved by a 62-36 margin in the U.S. Senate, only to be derailed by House Republicans determined to use illegal immigration as a political wedge issue-unsuccessfully, as it turned out-in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Comprehensive reform has the support of Main Street America. In poll after poll a strong majority of Americans support a comprehensive overhaul that includes legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In addition, a growing chorus of state and local elected officials, business owners, labor unions, faith-based organizations, and civil rights groups support comprehensive reform. Nevertheless, rabid opponents have exploited fear of the “other” to mobilize a small but vocal group to block progress on this important issue facing America. Standing in the way, they offer no practical “solutions” of their own. They do call for the deportation of 12 million immigrants and their families, and a massive border wall along our southern border, at the cost of billions of dollars and with no likelihood of success.

What comprehensive reformers understand-and our opposition does not-is that America can be both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws; indeed, we have to be both. Our country is at its best when it takes in new people with new ideas and encourages them to become new Americans. This combination of welcoming and integrating has helped to re-energize our nation throughout our history.

The challenge now is that our immigration system is out of date and out of step with labor market realities and the desire of immigrants to live with loved ones in the United States. Our failure to update our immigration system has left us with a growing population of undocumented workers, and no strategy to integrate them into America. We have thrown enormous taxpayer resources at “securing” the border, and have no real results to show for it. American citizens and legal permanent residents face years of separation from loved ones because our immigration channels are so broken. And millions of workers operate in the shadow economy, afraid to report exploitation by employers because doing so could lead to their deportation. It is time to get our nation’s immigration policy back on track.

Our prescription for reform is to deal with the byproducts of our broken immigration system-the 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country-while simultaneously updating our immigration laws to prevent a future build-up of undocumented immigrants. Our reform agenda combines the following:

  • Smart and professional border enforcement;
  • A crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers to exploit them;
  • A controlled increase in legal visas for the future flow of needed workers and close family members;
  • An earned citizenship program that requires those here illegally to get on the right side of the law by passing background checks, studying English, paying taxes, and getting to the back of the citizenship line; and
  • Efforts to reduce migration pressures in sending countries over time.

Once implemented, a workable reform law would dramatically reduce current and future unauthorized immigration, restore the benefits of legal immigration, secure the border, and level the playing field for law-abiding employers and all workers in the United States. It would replace a chaotic black market with a properly regulated legal immigration system and a significant reduction in illegal immigration.

Imagine the difference when those thinking of coming to the United States illegally know that it is difficult to cross the border; if you make it past the border, it is almost impossible to get a job if you do not have proper papers; the only jobs for illegal workers with no papers are with the bad employers who are being cracked down on consistently by federal authorities; there is now a line to get into to apply for visas for full-time work with full labor rights; and if you wait your turn, you can enter the U.S. on an airplane, with papers, and with labor rights, rather than risk your life crossing the desert only to face constant fear and routine exploitation. Add to this the fact that those already here are able to get on the right side of the law and on a path to citizenship, and you have the beginning of system that transforms the illegality of the archaic status quo into a regulatory regime that effectively controls immigration flows, protects both American and immigrant workers, ensures full tax compliance by workers and employers alike, and restores the rule of law both to our borders and our workplaces.

These are the goals of America’s Voice, and the goals of American voices who are demanding real reform. It is time for these voices to be heard.

During the last few election cycles, most pundits, reporters, and talking heads have asserted that immigration is the new “third rail” in American politics. They said it had become the new wedge issue for conservatives to use against moderates to help them gain an edge. But as is often true with so-called “conventional wisdom,” these arguments actually have more in common with fiction than fact. was set up to provide a reasoned counterpoint to the simple assertions of mainstream thinking on immigration, and challenge conventional wisdom when it is wrong. Starting with the election of 2006, a group of polling experts and political strategists began to track bellwether races where the issue of immigration was playing an important role. Their goal was to take an honest and thorough look at the immigration wedge strategy and evaluate how it worked (or did not) in the hottest Congressional and gubernatorial races.

Frank Sharry, Simon Rosenberg, and pollsters such as Celinda Lake and David Mermin of Lake Research Partners and Pete Brodnitz of Benenson Strategy Group used empirical research rather than assumptions to drive analysis of the immigration wedge strategy. Their work in 2006 showed that immigration almost never works to put conservatives over the top, and that candidates who embrace comprehensive immigration reform are not only holding even, but actually surging ahead in some areas because they take a practical approach to addressing the problem of undocumented immigration.

The same was true in 2007 and is shaping up that way again in 2008. Recalling the presidential primaries of just last year, the same tired pundits were again asserting that immigration would play a decisive role in the presidential race. Perhaps it did, but not in the way they imagined: on the Republican side, Mitt Romney ran thousands of anti-immigrant spots against John McCain, and lost. One-trick pony Tom Tancredo never gained any traction, and born-again anti-immigrant campaigner Mike Huckabee peaked in Iowa, never to be seen again. On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama steered a consistent path for comprehensive reform, and Obama continues to advocate common sense immigration reform as he and McCain battle for the center of the U.S. electorate.

One point that conventional wisdom does have right is the fact that the fast-growing Latino and immigrant vote will hold major sway in 2008 at the Presidential level and down the ballot. The road to the White House travels right through Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida, key battleground states with large numbers of Latino voters. While Obama currently holds a strong edge with this key group, McCain could compete in some areas for their support, particularly if he strays back toward his maverick ideals on immigration instead of trying to appeal to GOP conservatives.

The immigration issue is particularly important to this group of voters, because the debate has become more about what kind of people we want in this country, rather than how many visas we should offer and what the process should be for obtaining one. As a result of the vitriol spewed during the House and Senate debates on immigration in 2005, 2006, and 2007, the immigrant community has been galvanized. Like no other previous election, immigrant voters may very well decide the outcome of national, Congressional, and local races. Candidates will be hard-pressed to attract these voters if they continually beat up on their parents, friends, and neighbors.

In 2008, will once again be the best resource available for those following the politics of immigration. We will be conducting our own public opinion research through Lake Research Partners and Benenson Strategy Group, as well as tapping their insights on immigration dynamics. Joining them will be Simon Rosenberg of NDN, Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, and other leading strategists. We will identify the top races across the country where the immigration issue figures prominently, and analyze the candidates’ tactics, policies, and performance in November.

Several factors will help guide which races we cover. Is a candidate using immigration as a wedge issue? Is he or she running on a platform of comprehensive immigration reform? Is immigration a high-profile issue in the district? Are Latino and immigrant citizens registered to vote in large numbers, and will they make a difference in the outcome?

We will start out with a number of races and pare back the list to a few key targets by mid-October, as the campaigns develop and it becomes clear which races are the most important to watch on this issue. These will be the bellwether races we believe set the tone for the direction of the debate nationwide, and provide important insight into the national mood on this issue. Our experts will provide both pre- and post-election commentary via conference calls, blogs, and the release of data and analysis, and will be available to talk to the media throughout the campaign season.

Despite a “massive crisis in detainee medical care” according to internal government documents, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff does not seem to grasp the gravity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) failure to uphold basic standards in the treatment of detainees. The New York Times quoted Secretary Chertoff saying that in “the population of any detention facility, whether it’s a state prison, federal prison, you’re going to get a certain number of deaths.”

August 21, 2008

Frank Sharry

As we all know, the immigration issue is here to stay. Candidates can no longer duck and hide from the debate and election results will be largely affected by what was and was not said about the issue during the campaign.

No matter the season, no matter the year, you can expect the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to put out a report chock-full of pseudo-research that concludes with calls for fewer immigrants in the U.S.

August 18, 2008

Reform Agenda

Our Reform Agenda

Our Plan For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

America’s Voice stands with the strong majority of Americans who support real comprehensive immigration reform. We are joined by leaders from law enforcement, local government, business, labor, civil rights, and faith communities who agree that Congress should restore the integrity of the nation’s immigration system.

Opponents of reform offer no practical ideas beyond building a border fence and walling off the U.S. They have consistently misinformed the public with dishonest accusation and offered no practical solutions. Americans don’t want endless debate, they want action.

We believe sensible immigration reform legislation should combine the following elements to secure the border and reduce illegal immigration:

  • A program that requires those here illegally to get on the right side of the law by passing background checks, studying English, paying taxes, and working towards full U.S. citizenship.
  • Reunification of families separated by outdated immigration laws.
  • A commission to regulate the future flow of employment-based immigration so that workers’ rights are protected and honest businesses can compete.
  • A crackdown on unscrupulous employers who hire undocumented workers and break labor laws to undermine their law-abiding competitors.
  • Smart and professional border enforcement, conducted in consultation with border communities.
  • Reform of current immigration enforcement practices, including the right to fair proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees, and respect for community policing.
  • Reduction of migration pressures in “sending countries” over time.

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