Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Year End Message from FAIR
Now that Congress has finally adjourned for a few weeks, it seems fitting that we take a break from our normal routine here at FAIR to reflect on the progress of immigration reform over 109th Congress. And in reviewing the events of the last two years, it is clear that our lawmakers talked a great deal, but achieved few results. This was mainly because the entire immigration debate was saddled by proposals to enact a mass amnesty and reward those who have broken the law. Sadly, the 109th Congress yet again missed an opportunity to pass an immigration reform agenda that we all believe will truly serve our national interest.

Looking at the bright side, it is clear that the biggest success of the 109th Congress was accomplished not in Washington, D.C., but at the grassroots level with the extraordinary mobilization of true immigration reform advocates. Across the United States, FAIR activists educated themselves on the issue, the legislation, and the quickly-changing political environment as never before. Armed with information, FAIR activists and members by the tens of thousands called their Representatives and Senators to oppose amnesty and advocate true enforcement measures. As Congress was on the brink of passing the largest amnesty in American history, these actions made the difference in stopping what some considered the inevitable. We were successful then and, with your continued dedication, we can be again in 2007!

Indeed, this year there were some gains in the enforcement arena. Congress authorized the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the southern border, the hiring of more law enforcement agents, and the creation of more detention space. In addition, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to improve the uniformity and integrity of driver's licenses issued throughout the United States. These were all reforms that FAIR advocated and fought for on Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, while the passage of these measures suggests progress, it is entirely uncertain whether they will bear fruit. First, the funding for these reforms is by no means certain. For example, Congress only authorized about $1.2 billion needed for fencing, an amount proponents say will actually only build about 390 miles. Ongoing funding is also needed for the creation of detention space and the hiring and training of law enforcement agents. And, even if lawmakers are dedicated to funding these reforms, it will take at least a couple of years to see results. Finally, the incoming Congress and the election of many new members creates further uncertainty with respect to these enforcement reforms and any others on FAIR's agenda. Some members of Congress have publicly stated they intend to revisit immigration-related legislation passed in the 109th Congress (specifically the Secure Fence Act) and make adjustments where deemed necessary. This does not bode well for reformers who supported their passage in the first place.

In the area of legal immigration, the 109th Congress can claim no progress whatsoever. No action was taken on the urgent need to limit and roll back immigration, no action was taken to eliminate abuse in the refugee and asylum program, and an immense backlog still exists in processing immigration applications due to slow-moving background checks. Meanwhile, in the last waning hours of the session, Congress managed to pass special interest language extending three guest worker programs. These programs allow nurses, doctors, and certain skilled individuals to work in the United States and compete with U.S. workers.

We can and must do better! In the coming weeks, FAIR will release its legislative agenda for the 110th Congress. At this moment, however, I want you to know that we are all dedicated to working with both Democrats and Republicans as we advocate for true immigration reform in the 110th Congress. Political pundits may spin the November elections in many ways, but the election of enforcement-oriented Democrats across the country proves that true immigration reformers have friends in both parties. It is with this bi-partisan support that we will work hard to move our agenda forward.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your hard work and support. You are the key to our success.

Happy New Year —There's more at stake than ever in 2007!

Dan Stein,