Bush's Electoral Strategy Criticized
From El Diario
January 9, 2004

By Ana Ledo

The temporary work permit program proposed yesterday by President George W. Bush as a reform to the United States immigration system will create confusion among immigrants, and will not give undocumented immigrants what they fought for permanent resident status [green card], said advocates for immigrant rights.

"This is a program with no solution and will give way to easier deportation. This is not an answer to the problem in the immigration system of this nation. This is the election year and the Latinos are not going to be won over," said Margaret McHugh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella group which consists of 150 organizations.

Like McHugh, representatives of the Latino community such as Moisés Pérez, director of the Dominican Alliance, Guillerno Chacón with the National Network of American Salvadorians, and Vincente Mayorga, representative of the United Front of Immigrant Ecuadorians, said that the president's proposal only tells immigrants that they are welcome in the United States to work and pay taxes, but then they will have to march right back to their country of origin.

Under the new plan, foreign workers and undocumented immigrants will receive a three-year work permit that can be renewed once. Participants can also leave and re-enter into the country as if they were legal residents. But employers must prove that no American workers can fill the jobs.

Mayorga said that he prefers to remain undocumented, rather than to facilitate deportation for just six years by registering in the program. The Ecuadorian said that the difficulty of being separated from your family for 10 years and the desire to see them again is what complicates a residency.

"I have suffered the exploitation and the abuses myself. The drama of undocumented immigrants is great and we want a solution from the Congress – permanent residency," said Mayorga.

The activists indicated that the proposed plan is "inhumane" because it does not value the immigrants as anything more than just labor.

"It also doesn't resolve the problems that face the undocumented workers, like the Latinos, who suffer in most cases of labor exploitation, low salaries, and lack of medical insurance or benefits," said Pérez.

During the press conference, Chacón expressed his worry over the confusion that this proposition could cause among immigrant communities saying that this is "an empty piñata" that creates expectations, but doesn't bring permanent residence. He also called the President's plan an electoral strategy.

On the other hand, the director of the Center for Latino Workers, Mónica Santana, supports the Bush initiative, saying that it is the start of a process of legalization that guarantees immigrants who live in "clandestine" circumstances in the United States the right to be documented.

"No other proposal that concerns us guarantees that a person will be a resident in less time. This program gives the possibility of working by entering into a system that will guarantee residency in the end," said Santana. She said that the Bush proposition is along the lines of the McCain-Kolbe-Flake plan presented last year to Congress, which would secure the borders and improve the immigration system.

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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs.

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