Immigration Advocates Wary of Senate Bill

Advocates of immigration reform worry bill will develop a new set of illegals.

ByABC News
May 18, 2007, 3:02 PM

May 18, 2007 — -- Hailed as a historic, landmark agreement, the immigration reform bill that cleared the Senate this week is making some immigration advocates wary of its terms.

Alvaro Huerta, spokesperson for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, calls it a "flawed approach."

The proposed agreement, finalized after months of bipartisan negotiations, would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain "Z" visas. The head of an immigrant household would pay a fee of $5,000 and be granted eight years to return to their home countries or "touch back," to gain a guaranteed re-entry in the United States.

Even with this guarantee, some worry that the real life logistics of "touching back" may prove to too difficult.

Glen Wasserstein, a partner of the American Immigration Lawyer's Association, is one of those concerned, citing the complexity in processing the millions of immigrants that would return to their countries of origin. He believes the consulate offices are simply not equipped to handle the volume of returnees, creating backlog that could deter undocumented immigrants from coming out of the shadows.

"The fear of being stuck abroad would keep many aliens from engaging in this program," Wasserstein said.

Huerta agrees, worrying that touch backs will not stop immigrants from residing illegally in the United States.

"We're still going to have a group of underground folks who are going to be scared, not trusting or taking it on face value that they will be allowed back in," Huerta said.

Advocates are concerned not only that some immigrants would remain undocumented, but that the measure would actually create a new set of illegals within the country.

The proposal outlines a guest worker program that allows 400,000 migrant workers to enter the country each year, but forces them to leave after two years. Jaime Contreras of the National Capital Coalition of Immigrant Rights said this simply won't happen.

"The guest worker program will create another group of undocumented immigrants when their visas expires, they're not going to go back," said Contreras.