Senate Appropriations Bill a Mixed Bag of Immigration Provisions

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09071075 (posted Jul. 10, 2009)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, July 10, 2009
CONTACT:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate last night passed the FY10 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 2892) by a vote of 84-6. The $44.3 billion funding measure also includes new immigration-related provisions representing a mixed bag of worksite enforcement and humanitarian legislation.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is disappointed in the Senate's passage of an amendment to make permanent the flawed electronic employment verification system, E-Verify, and also mandate its use for new and existing federal contractors.

"This is a troubling development from the Senate," said Bernie Wolfsdorf, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "The nascent E-Verify program is only used by 100,000 employers and is still fraught with errors. It has a high probability for database errors, is still vulnerable to misuse, and has a potentially detrimental impact on the Social Security Administration. Supporting this still-feeble program is an example of our Senators putting politics over policy."

AILA is also concerned about the Senate's decision to invoke a tired chestnut with the vote to fund a 700-mile wall along the southwestern border. Wolfsdorf added, "We already know that a wall does not work. It is a very expensive and ugly symbol, and nothing more."

"These piecemeal non-solutions do nothing to fix our broken immigration system," Wolfsdorf continued. "Americans deserve real solutions to our problems, not flimsy bandages. We need comprehensive immigration reform that provides realistic legal means to make our immigration system work for us."

At the same time, AILA is pleased with the passage of provisions that sustain visa programs for religious workers and physicians, and end the "widow penalty," thus halting the deportation of individuals because their spouses died. "On this issue the Senate got it right. It acted to eliminate one of our more unsympathetic immigration laws," said Wolfsdorf.

"The Senate action on the DHS Appropriations bill is a mixed bag for immigrant advocates and for AILA but by ending the widow penalty it shows that it is capable of putting policy over politics when it chooses. The debate over comprehensive immigration will soon begin in earnest and we will be watching to ensure that decisions are based on substance instead of rhetoric."

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.