Today, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
S.744 is the product of various compromises among Senators across the political spectrum. As such, it includes many provisions that the U.S. Jesuit Conference supports, but also many that we believe are wasteful and inhumane policy choices.
Most disappointing are the provisions introduced by Senators Corker and Hoeven that dramatically militarize our border with Mexico at an estimated cost of 46 billion dollars. These provisions double the number of Border Patrol agents and provide warfare technology for non-military operations by introducing drones, infrared sensors, and 140 million dollars’ worth of Blackhawk helicopters into civilian border communities. All of this will be implemented despite serious transparency and accountability failures by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and despite unprecedented growth in the immigration enforcement apparatus over the last decade. We must express our deep concern about the impacts these policies will have on the civil rights of border residents, the humane treatment of migrants, and the natural environment at the southern border.
Despite the negative impact this legislation will have on our southern border, we welcome the positive provisions in S.744. Many of our undocumented brothers and sisters will qualify for citizenship. The DREAM Act included in S.744 is the strongest version of that legislation to date. Agricultural and guest workers, abused and neglected for so long, will gain important workplace protections. Other positive aspects of the final Bill include language deterring racial profiling in immigration apprehensions, the clarification and publication of Border Patrol use of force policies, limitations on immigration raids at churches, schools, and hospitals, and constraints on dangerous deportation practices.
Now that the Senate has passed this Bill, we look forward to working with the House of Representatives as they debate immigration reform. Whether the House decides to address reform in a piecemeal or comprehensive manner, we insist on legislative action to address the needs of the 11 million undocumented persons in our country. We also urge the House of Representatives to reject the path of egregious overspending and militarization of the southern border region taken by the Senate.
As Members of Congress begin their work on immigration reform, we remind them that the U.S. Jesuit Conference supports legislation that includes the following elements:
The passage of S.744 is a significant step, but much legislative work remains before our nation can say that it has implemented comprehensive and humane immigration reform. The U.S. Jesuit Conference will continue to work with our elected officials until just, comprehensive, and humane immigration reform becomes a reality for all our undocumented brothers and sisters.