Several groups which support immigrants in Iowa are holding a vigil in downtown Des Moines calling for improvements in the immigration reform proposal being discussed in the U.S. Senate. The groups which call themselves the "Coalition for Comprehensive Reform," kicked off the three day vigil saying the current proposal in the Senate is too rigid. Sandra Sanchez of the American Friends Service Committee says the immigrants that are here contribute to society in a variety of ways, and they want to continue doing so.
Sanchez says the current proposal poses a significant threat to the integrity of families and sets a dangerous precedent — the implicit criminalization of both workers and employers. Sanchez the compromise proposal reached last year had room for improvement, but this proposal "has little they can support." Sanchez says the Senate proposal offers no way for immigrants to become legal. "It has triggers so stringent that it will be extremely difficult for most applicants to gain legal residence, effectively defeating the very purpose of the reform," Sanchez says.
Ta-Yu Tang of the Iowa-Nebraska Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, credits lawmakers with trying to address the issue. Tang says the President and lawmakers deserve credit for putting a lot of effort into the bill. But he says the way the law is written, it would be a "full employment act for lawyers for many years to come." Tang says lawyers would benefit from the many fees involved in the bill, while immigrants would suffer.
Tang says a family of four would have to pay nine-thousand dollars to get the initial "Z" visa, and then would need a six or seven thousand dollars for an extension. Then he says they would have to go to their original country and have to pay "several thousand more dollars" to get back to the U.S.
Sister Christine Feagan said she came to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Marshalltown seven years ago. Feagan says she’s come to know a lot of the immigrants and the great contributions they make to the community. But says she was very sad to experience what the community of Marshalltown went through during the immigration raid at the meatpacking plant December 12th.
Feagan says there are still many families that’re are separated and not knowing their fate once their cases come to court. Feagan issued this charge. "And I think that it’s really time that we as American citizens take responsibility, and open our doors, and open are arms and hearts to these people," Feagan said. Coalition members say they want a comprehensive reform plan that provides a path to citizenship, protects workers, and reunites families. They plan to continue their vigil through Wednesday.