May 23, 2003

Texas Tragedy Underscores Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Washington, DC - The deaths of eighteen migrants in an 18-wheeler truck in Victoria, Texas has sparked renewed calls for comprehensive immigration reform from the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington. As we head towards the summer season, the group predicts that many more will perish along the U.S.-Mexico border unless Washington acts.

“While this tragedy is horrific, we have seen similar deaths in ones and twos and dozens in the past,” said Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Unless and until we see comprehensive reform that allows migrants to come legally and with dignity, we will see more of these tragedies in the weeks and months ahead.” 

The Forum supports policies that would expand legal channels for immigrants to come to this country seeking work and a better life for their families. Years of law enforcement and technological build-ups at the border have proven no substitute for realistic, enforceable immigration laws. Our current policies to repress immigration have criminalized the process of matching willing workers with willing employers. Those who benefit are the smugglers who are reaping millions in profits at the cost of hundreds of lives a year.

“Last year, we saw one death on average per day along the border,” Kelley said. “Our policies must be adjusted to reality so that we are no longer lining the pockets of smugglers, document forgers, and unscrupulous employers exploiting the black market for workers.”

A smart-borders policy would allow people to come with visas and legal status, taking the profit out of smuggling and the danger out of seeking work. Expanded and continued cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to bring order and safety to the border also must be a priority, Kelley argues. Combined with a policy to allow long-term, tax-paying undocumented immigrants already here to earn an opportunity for legal status, this would reduce the human black market and bring hard working immigrants out of the shadows.

“Overhauling our immigration laws is an essential ingredient in improving national security, economic security, and reuniting American families divided by borders and outdated laws,” Kelley said. ”Rather than repressing immigration ineffectively, we should be managing it efficiently. Not just to benefit the immigrants, but to benefit the country and the economy.”

“Until we do something about our immigration laws - until they match the reality of people seeking opportunity and employers who want to hire them - we will see more of these senseless tragedies unfolding in the summer months ahead,” Kelley concluded.

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