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Immigration: A Growing Humanitarian Crisis

On Friday, February 15, 2013 Jane Guskin, author of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, was invited to speak at the James Connolly Forum in Troy. The forum was held at the Oakwood Community Center and co-sponsored by the Troy Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Below is a brief write up based on the event.

Over the past decade, the immigration debate has been rife with misinformation, frequently grounded in a deep fear of difference instead of accurate information. This fear has translated, on the federal level, into astronomical spending on immigration enforcement. Since 1986, the US has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement alone. In fiscal year 2012, Obama spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, meaning that we spent more on immigration enforcement agencies than on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined (this includes the total amount spent on the FBI, DEA, US Secret Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).

Our fear of immigrants has resulted in over 4 million deportations since 1990, a massive infrastructure of detention centers, thousands of deaths along the US-Mexican border and over 11 million people living in this country with little to no access to health care, food, housing or support in the case of an emergency. In short, by focusing immigration policy primarily on security, we have created a humanitarian crisis.

As immigration reform appears to be on the horizon in Washington, advocates federally and locally are working hard to shape the debate, attempting to add a human face to what has largely been framed as an economic or security issue. Albany has been abuzz with immigration reform advocates; on Wednesday, February 27 the New York Immigration Coalition announced their budget and policy priorities and helped bring 150 people to lobby for immigration reform. On Tuesday, March 5 hundreds of undocumented students lobbied with the NYS Youth Leadership Council for the passage of the NY Dream Act.

In Troy, the Troy Area Labor Council and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace helped bring Jane Guskin, author of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, to speak at the Oakwood Community Center and help foster a conversation about immigration. Guskin explained that part of the motivation behind the book was to provide well-researched responses to some of the common misnomers about immigration. In order to help frame the discussion, Guskin provided a basic overview of some of the policies currently on the table. Below is a basic outline of the proposals that she outlined:








AFL-CIO Yes, but very limited. Does not mention. Yes Yes Does not mention. Limited mention.
DREAM ACTIVISTS Yes, broad legalization. Yes No No Does not mention. Does not mention.
ACLU Yes, broad legalization. Yes No No Yes Does not mention.
DIGNITY CAMPAIGN Yes, broad legalization. Yes No No Yes Yes

After outlining the positions of these organizations and the Congressional proposal, Guskin opened the floor. Below is the full presentation and discussion for you to check out:

What is clear from advocates across the board is that we need immigration reform and we need it now. Yet, in order to have meaningful reform that will address the humanitarian crisis we have created, we need to remind people that when they talk about immigration they are talking about people with lives and families and stories. We need to bring the debate back to human rights and maybe then we can start to move in a better direction.

VIDEO Description (published on 02/17/2013): Jane Guskin discusses recent immigration reform proposals on February 15, 2013, at the James Connolly Forum in Troy, New York. Guskin is co-author with David Wilson of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, published in July 2007 by Monthly Review Press. She is also a co-director of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, a New York City-based grassroots foundation supporting nonviolent action for social justice. Jane Guskin and David Wilson can be contacted at thepoliticsofimmigration(at) The forum was held at the Oakwood Community Center and co-sponsored by the Troy Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO; and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Guskin was introduced by moderator Jackie Hayes, a graduate student at University at Albany SUNY and an activist with New York Students Rising.

Related links:

Immigration reform proposals:

Dignity Campaign

ACLU Framework for Immigration Reform

AFL-CIO’s “Unity Framework”

United We Dream Core Principles of Immigration Reform

“Gang of 8” Senate “Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform”

New York State Youth Leadership Council


Prerna Lal, “Thoughts About the ‘Gang of 8’ Immigration Plan”

Kandace Vallejo, “Immigration Reform for My Mom”

David Bacon, “The Dignity Campaign’s Alternative Vision for Immigration Reform”

Luis Fernandez and Joel Olson, “To Live, Love, and Work Anywhere You Please: Arizona and the Struggle for Locomotion”

References for this post

Caldwell, Alicia. “Obama Administration Spent $18 Billion on Immigration Enforcement.” Associated Press, 7 Jan 2013.

Meissner, Doris, Donald Kerwin, Muzaffar Chishti, and Claire Bergeron. “Immigration Enforcement in the United States: the Rise of a Formidable Machinery.” Migration Policy Institute, Jan 2013.