The Bay Area News Group invited prominent local voices in the immigration debate to share their opinions on the comprehensive immigration bill being introduced Tuesday by eight U.S. Senators.
The bill has not yet been unveiled, but here is what Bay Area advocates for and against various immigration proposals are saying about a 17-page outline released Tuesday. Also included here are statements from national leaders.
Jazmin Segura, San Jose
Who: Federal policy advocate for the Services, Immigrants Rights and Education Network
What she says: "The Senate's Gang of 8 has produced a bipartisan outline that represents a major step forward to fixing our broken immigration system. We are still awaiting the release of the complete bill but from what we have seen so far, there are things we like and things that we disagree with. The bill will establish a new road map to citizenship for 11 million new Americans. However, we are particularly concerned with the 13-year-long wait and the border security triggers attached to this process. This is a great start but we will continue to work with our members of Congress to ensure this process is accessible, timely and affordable and one that is not contingent upon enforcement."
Carl Guardino, Monte Sereno
Who: Business advocate who leads the Silicon Valley Leadership Group
What he says: "The Gang of 8's bipartisan effort is a significant step forward to reforming high-skilled worker immigration issues that are critical to the innovation economy in the wake of increased global competition. Our 375 member companies are pleased to see an increase in the availability of green cards for scientists and engineers, along with advanced degree holders in science, math, engineering and technology. Provisions for an entrepreneur visa and increases in the number of H-1B visas available also are essential provisions. If approved this will have a substantial impact in helping us recruit the specialized skill sets we need for 21st Century businesses."
Norm Matloff, Walnut Creek
Who: UC Davis computer science professor and longtime critic of the H-1B visa program
What he says: "Two major issues with H-1B and green cards are (a) paying foreign workers below-market wages and (b) 'handcuffing' foreign workers so they can't switch employers. If (a) and (b) were fixed, the caps would be lesser issues. The bill is said to address (a), but 'the devil is in the details,' so I'm withholding judgment. The bill does not directly address abuse (b). The bill's punitive measures against the Indian outsourcing firms are shameful scapegoating; the mainstream firms are just as culpable as the Indian ones regarding (a), and ONLY the mainstream firms widely engage in abuse (b)."
Vivek Wadhwa, Menlo Park
Who he is: Vice president of innovation and research at Singularity University, fellow at Stanford University, former tech entrepreneur and author of "The Immigrant Exodus"
What he says: "This is exactly what I feared -- another Obamacare. In trying to please everyone, it will please no one. It has many improvements to the current system, but makes far too many compromises. ... This is why I have argued that we need to do smaller, more focused bills. For example, we should immediately approve a Startup Visa -- that both sides agree on. We should also increase the numbers of green cards for workers who are already here. We also need to decouple H-1Bs from employers so that they are no longer taken advantage of. And we need more H-1B visas so that Silicon Valley companies can hire the workers they badly need. Why do these improvements have to be bundled into this convoluted mess of a bill?"
Ju Hong, Alameda
Who he is: Graduate student in public administration at San Francisco State University who has obtained Obama administration's deferred action relief for young immigrants brought here as children
What he says: "Eleven million undocumented immigrants should not wait 13 years to get citizenship status while they will have to pay enormous amounts of fees and fines without receiving any public benefits. This is simply wrong and inhumane. We deserve better. In order to fix our broken immigration system, we need an inclusive and a direct path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country."
President Barack Obama, Washington, D.C.
What he says: "This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform. This bill would continue to strengthen security at our borders and hold employers more accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers. It would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally. And it would modernize our legal immigration system so that we're able to reunite families and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers who will help create good paying jobs and grow our economy. ... I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and ... I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible."
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas
Who he is: Member and former chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee
What he says: "It's three strikes and you're out for the Senate's immigration proposal. First, it legalizes almost everyone in the country illegally before the border is secured. This, of course, will encourage even more illegal immigration. Second, it puts the interests of foreign workers ahead of the interests of American workers. The immigration plan allows millions of illegal immigrants to compete with American workers, driving down their wages. And third, it treats illegal immigrants better than those who have played by the rules and waited their turn in line to come to the United States. Illegal immigrants get legal status immediately. The law-abiding -- well, they just have to continue waiting."
Krsna Avila, Oakland
Who he is: Legal services manager for Educators for Fair Consideration
What he says: "It's tough. One of my really good friends came to this country after December 31, 2011. If an immigration law passed as it looks today, she won't qualify. Similarly, thousands of my brothers and sisters will try to cross the border tomorrow, just like my parents and I did -- to find a place to love and call home. If I supported this immigration bill, they probably won't have the same dreams and opportunities. This is a moral dilemma that I am faced with and it hits home because I know what it means to be undocumented for 23 years. Laws are real."
Brian Berg, Saratoga
Who he is: Independent computer consultant and past chairman of the Santa Clara Valley section of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers
What he says: "While the bill is not perfect, it improves America's high-skill immigration system in two major ways. First, it expands the EB (employment based) green-card system, which is a big plus for international students who want to become U.S. citizens. Ph.D. students would be completely exempted from the EB cap, and more visas would be made available for master's students. Second, although the bill raises the H-1B cap too much, it does include significant reforms which should reduce the program's worst abuses -- particularly by the outsourcers, who would be partly left out of the H-1B process."
Gabriela Villareal, Oakland
Who she is: policy manager for the California Immigrant Policy Center
What she says: "The devil is in the details and we're still waiting for those. The bipartisan Senate group acknowledges the need to create an immigration process with a road map to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented Americans. After the bill is introduced, we will analyze the bill by asking, 'Does this uphold the principle that all people are created equal?' That means keeping all families together, protecting workers' rights, ending painful deportations, and safeguarding our most basic civil rights. We should not deport community members today who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow."
Gerald Lenoir, Berkeley
Who he is: Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
What he says: "The Senate immigration reform bill undermines the interests of families. The bill shifts immigration policy from a family-based system to an employment based system. The siblings and adult children immigrants will no longer be eligible for visas. In addition, thousands of immigrants who are here on certain temporary visas are not eligible for permanent status and citizenship. The bill allocates billions of dollars for border and interior enforcement. I object to the criminalization of immigrants and the assumption that they are a threat. Fear mongering has dominated the debate and has led to the break up of families and the wasting of billions of dollars."
Abdi Soltani, Berkeley
Who he is: Executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of California.
What he says: "While this legislation is timely and important, it will have to be improved to address severe obstacles for many aspiring citizens, many of whom live in our state. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in California could be left out of this historic reform simply because of hefty fines and application fees. This would leave them vulnerable to continued mass deportation and detention programs such as the controversial program "S-Comm" (Secure Communities). Over 93,500 Californians have already been torn from their families and deported as a result of S-Comm, accounting for the highest number of deportations in the nation."