Send Illegal Aliens to the Reservation? ‘Maybe That’s a Good Plan B,’ Immigrant Activist Says

Penny Starr | December 11, 2012 | 4:53pm EST
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Chris Newman, director of legal programs with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, spoke on Dec. 11, 2012 at CAP’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. ( Starr)

( – An advocate for immigrant rights says Indian reservations might offer “a good Plan B” for accommodating the estimated 11- to 14-million people illegally residing in the United States.

“And I think, you know, maybe that’s a plan B if Congress is unable to finally pull us back together after 10 years of having debated this issue and politicians having made careers of demagogueing this issue, to get it done this time. Maybe that’s a good Plan B,” said Chris Newman, director of legal programs with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Newman made the remarks on Tuesday at  the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., in response to an audience member, who proposed that if Indian tribes granted reservation citizenship to illegal aliens, then they, too, would be protected through treaties from deportation.

“There are many day laborers that I’ve met over the years who speak neither English nor Spanish precisely, because they are, in fact, indigenous,” said Newman, whose organization is based in Los Angeles. “And the idea that somehow this population is being dehumanized and labeled as so-called illegal immigrants – by any sort of larger historic context they have a greater rightful claim to this land – is obviously riddled in irony.

In a 51-page report, CAP examines how the cumulative effects of "harsh immigration laws, increased enforcement actions, and a negative stigmatization of immigrants" combine to harm both immigrants and citizens alike.

"We argue that the fear created by this enforcement—both real and perceived—creates the conditions for what we call 'legal violence,' harming immigrant incorporation into the United States," the report's summary says.

The report notes that even people with legal status fear that their loved ones could be deported, which prevents them from fully integrating into their communities.

The report includes recommendations “to mitigate the harsh effects of legal violence and to ensure that all residents of the United States—immigrant or not, documented or not—have the ability and opportunity to integrate and prosper.”

It recommends calling on Congress to pass legislation that would set minimum standards for immigration enforcement when children are involved.

It also promotes the passage of “Dream Act” legislation that would give all illegal aliens a “pathway to citizenship.”

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