Legislative Injustice Will Cause Death

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by Maryada Vallet

As southern Arizona humanitarian, human rights, and faith groups, we understand that negotiation and compromise are difficult but necessary for any legislation, but this compromise has gone too far. This new bill is not genuine comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), it is a homeland security bill. It is disconnected from the interest of communities and the realities on the ground.

Make no mistake, this new bill, which is simply a bargaining chip for more Republican votes, will cause more deaths. The lives and homes of border communities and the well-being of future migrants will be impacted in devastating ways and for decades to come if the legislation—in this form—moves forward. As Senator McCain said, we will have the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin wall.” Please pause for a moment, and let that sink in.

Some of the changes from the Corker-Hoeven amendment, or the “border surge,” that was the new deal approved by the Senate last week are extremely alarming for border communities, including:

  • $40 billion (increased from the proposed $6.5 billion) for border security, which is good news for military and defense contractors.
  • 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents, which would double the agency…again. The agency already doubled in number in the past decade, with a steady increase in abuses, lack of transparency and corruption.
  • 700 more miles of wall, which continue to push people into more desolate areas and cause more deaths of migrants.
  • Estimated 4 to 5 million of the 11.5 million undocumented residents, including the most vulnerable workers, will not qualify for the path to legalization due to the intensive restrictions. Those who do qualify, will wait for the five border triggers and more than ten years to transition from temporary to permanent legal status. We would also see increased deportations and detention of immigrants.

At this crucial moment, we need our allies to stand for us; don’t throw us under the bus. We ask you to advocate for border communities and future immigrants with the same fervor with which you are struggling for the pathway to citizenship for immigrants that are already here.

The big question right now among many supporters of CIR is: At what point do we walk away from the table of bad policy? For many, that time has already come, and this legislation is deemed to cause more devastation for immigrants and affected communities than solutions.

As I Christian, I ask myself: Am still being true to the principles of my faith that compelled me to advocate for immigration reform in the first place? I have devoted my life to this movement, and my heart aches for genuine and compassionate reform, but I am not devoted to a particular piece of legislation or bad politics that causes more suffering at any cost.

Let’s create a table for reform where affected communities are the main stakeholders and good policy, not politics, are the foundation.

[Maryada Vallet stays busy as a humanitarian, health professional, and evangelical agitator on the border. For more on border humanitarian work, go to NoMoreDeaths.org. Vallet wrote “Living Out Faith in the War Zone of the Borderlands” in the Summer issue of PRISM. This is adapted from the statement given on behalf of No More Deaths for a press conference held by southern Arizona groups against the Corker-Hoeven Amendment on Monday, June 24.]

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