Student activists, professors and politicians will gather on the UC Riverside campus today to delve into the immigration reform debate and spotlight ideas of their own.
The UCR Alliance for Immigration Reform is hosting a daylong summit, slated to begin at 8 a.m., during which attendees will thrash out what they believe a comprehensive immigration reform law should include, according to organizers.
“Hundreds of individuals from divergent sectors, organizations and communities from throughout the country who are committed to achieving humane immigration reform will converge (here),” said UCR ethnic studies Professor Armando Navarro, who is helping coordinate the event.
“Not since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which legalized some 3 million undocumented persons, has the country been at a juncture to achieve immigration reform,” he said.
Among the leading issues to be addressed — the work of the so-called “Gang of Eight” in Washington, D.C., composed of U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The cadre has been attempting to hammer out a framework that specifies how to legally integrate the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants while ensuring U.S. laws and border security are strengthened.
Last month, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, after some debate, unanimously endorsed the group’s legislative “pillars,” which call for easing the requirements for undocumented minors to be granted citizenship; mandating that adults seeking citizenship register with the government and undergo background checks before their applications can be considered; and allow employers to “hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position.”
According to published reports, the group is at odds on several points, including whether to compel illegals to exit the country before they can apply for green cards, or work visas.
Critics liken the group’s proposals to blanket amnesty.
“Enforcement advocates, the vast majority of Americans, have coped with decades of disappointment,” said Joe Guzzardi with Californians for Population Stabilization. “The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act promised but never delivered increased border security and heavy sanctions on employers who hired illegal immigrants. Amnesty passed, but internal and border enforcement never happened.”
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for Immigration Reform, said the senators’ framework is “designed to satisfy the demands of illegal aliens and their advocates, as well as business interests that want more cheap labor.”
“American taxpayers will be saddled with staggering costs in the future as millions of poorly skilled illegal aliens become eligible for government services and programs,” Stein said.
Supervisor Marion Ashley, however, characterized the senators’ plan as a “tough but fair roadmap to citizenship.”
“It’s the best chance for realizing change,” he said.
Board Chairman John Benoit said the group’s concept provides an “equitable resolution to a longstanding problem.”
Lawmakers scheduled to be on hand tomorrow include Rep. Mark Takano, D- Riverside, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, and Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside.
Other individuals who have committed to be there are: Nita Gonzales, spokeswoman for Justice for Immigrants Coalition-Inland Empire; Herman Baca with the Committee on Chicano Rights-California; Carlos Arrango, president of the United Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; UCR political science Professor Karthick Ramakrishman; and La Sierra University sociology Professor Jesse Diaz.