Bill hampers immigration process
The Houston Branch of National Association of Social Workers encouraged social workers to become more vocal about immigration reform at an Aug. 14 town hall meeting.
The discussion focused on legislation geared toward removing certain constitutional rights from people who were born in the U.S.
If passed, Texas HB 28 would revoke some of the entitlements of U.S. citizens whose parents are not citizens. The proposed law could also translate to making children of immigrants ineligible for grants or loans.
Those affected would also not be allowed to seek public assistance, health care, public housing and employment from the state or a political subdivision of the state.
Licensed master social worker Jaime Bercelau is strongly opposed to bills that impede the progress of immigration reform, including HB 28.
‘I don’t like bills like (HB) 28, and I also don’t like the tendency to fall back on a position of fear that the American public has in opposition to undocumented immigrants in this country,’ Barcelau said.
Barcelau also said the social work community has been too quiet about immigration reform, which in turn can be hurtful to immigrants and citizens.
The town hall meeting also featured a discussion of the implications of Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g), which allows police officers to act as immigration officials.
Attendees said this law puts a spirit of fear into the Hispanic community, discouraging immigrants from calling the police for assistance.
The meeting also focused on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act.
DREAM would provide students who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and are younger than 30 with legal status and eventual citizenship.
DREAM, however, is available only to students who graduated with a high school diploma or GED. Other requirements include five years of continuous residency, good moral character, no criminal record and enrollment in college or enlistment in the military.
Students who do not fulfill one of the requirements could face deportation.
Licensed clinical social worker Jose Ramirez said silence from students on these issues is partially due to the lack of voice from social workers.
‘We as social workers need to start acting. We need to get more involved and come up with a motto like ‘Remember the Texas wall,” Ramirez said.
In addition to discussing legislation, the social workers agreed upon terminology that should be used to label immigrants.
Carlos Paz, executive assistant of president at Neighborhood Centers said the term ‘illegal aliens’ should be replaced with ‘undocumented.’.
Paz also said the Obama administration would not fully address immigration until 2011, giving social workers more than a year to improve their presence in this issue.