Showing the vitality and importance of voices from outside the mainstream two-party political paradigm, Congresswoman McKinney puts forth not only a strong understanding of the complexities of these issues, but also a vision of real-world solutions. Her refreshing willingness to confront the broader social and economic realities which undergird international migration further demonstrates that practical solutions will not come from political compromises and “bipartisan” gamesmanship, but rather from rigorously-grounded assessment and analysis.
Simply put, McKinney gets it right.
Senator McCain on the other hand has refused to respond to our survey or even answer our phone calls. Instead, he has crafted his message according to his intended audience of the moment, telling Latinos and others concerned about immigration that they should trust his past record of seeking reform, while repudiating that record when speaking to his conservative base.
Given these choices, it’s clear that McKinney presents the only meaningful and truly comprehensive approach to this issue. Let’s hope that in the future, voices like hers get the attention they deserve and a chance to break through the political din.
Name: Cynthia McKinney
Party Affiliation: Green Party
1. Could you please articulate what you think are the most pressing issues for the U.S. immigrant community, at home AND abroad, and how you would hope to address those issues as President?
One of the most pressing issues for immigrants is the effect of corporate globalization. The so-called "free trade" agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA, Fast Track, the Caribbean FTA, the U.S.-Peru FTA etc., have undermined labor and environmental rights and caused the loss of living-wage jobs both here and abroad. Massive agricultural imports into developing countries have displaced an estimated two million farmers, as subsidized grains from the United States take over their local and regional markets. With few new jobs in manufacturing or other sectors, many of these former farmers now work in fields and low-wage jobs across the U.S.
As a legislator I authored the No Tax Breaks for Runaway Plants bill in Congress; the TRUTH Act, requiring disclosure of the whereabouts of subsidiaries of U.S. corporations operating overseas; and the Corporate Responsibility Act, to force U.S. corporations operating overseas to abide by U.S. environmental and labor standards. As president, I would continue the fight against corporate globalization and require corporations to be held publicly accountable and socially responsible. Global warming is another pressing issue. As islands disappear and indigenous. ways of life are threatened, entire populations are displaced. Food production and water supplies are at risk. The United States can no longer justify denial by blaming weather fluctuations or claiming the science is unclear. We need air, land, water, climate, production and consumption policies that reflect the real limits within which we all must live.
It is impossible to discuss the issue of so-called "illegal immigration" without addressing the reasons millions of people are forced to flee their countries to come to the United States No human being is an "illegal alien." What is illegal is the way U.S. economic policies treat workers in this country and throughout the world. I support immigration policies that promote fairness, nondiscrimination, and family re-unification, not preferential quotas based on race, class and ideology.
2. Do you support comprehensive immigration reform?
Yes. Immigration reform should be based on human rights, compassion, and fairness.
3. What policy conditions would comprehensive immigration reform have to meet in order for you to support it? Please be specific.
I would tear down the U.S.-Mexican border wall, to stop funneling immigrants through hostile terrain, where thousands have perished in the past decade. U.S. immigration policy should not include a random death sentence. I would reduce the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border. Borders should be areas of interdependence that people are free to travel across for work, shopping or recreation.
I would promote the creation of a multinational labor union that establishes consistent policies in each country to ensure a living wage, health benefits and safe working conditions.
I would renegotiate international trade agreements such as CAFTA and NAFTA and the WTO, as well as the policies of the IMF, World Bank and other international banking institutions.
I would cover immigrant workers by state and federal wage, tax and labor laws as well as worker's compensation, disability and unemployment insurance benefits.
I would provide immigrants with the ability to obtain permanent residency status within a reasonable amount of time and a path to citizenship, even if they are undocumented.
I would support immigration policies that promote fairness, non-discrimination and family reunification. I would provide medical care, education, housing and other services to immigrants and their families.
I would permit immigrants to apply for driver's licenses without verification of legal documentation.
4. Do you support the establishment of an expanded guest worker program?
No. The guest worker program creates a category of second-tier residents who cannot get citizenship and who have less rights than citizens, leaving them unable to organize and vulnerable to exploitation by unfair labor practices.
5. Do you support the expansion and construction of a virtual border along the U.S./Mexico border?
I voted "no" on the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (H.R.6061). I reject the border fence as a wasteful militarized approach to the question of immigration. Without a reasonable immigration policy, any fence, whether virtual or made of discarded military landing pads, or whatever, is a road to nowhere. On the Mexican side of the metal border fence, in Nogales, Sonora, is the handwritten statement, in Spanish, "A wall is a bridge when you tip it over." This is the statement of simple reality. Unreasonable barriers will always be challenged. But it is also the statement of the obvious solution. When an unreasonable barrier is converted to a reasonable use, that reasonable use becomes a bridge.
6. Do you support the switch from family based immigration standards to the merit based system put forth in the last round of Senate CIR?
This question assumes that high "merit" immigrants do not value their families and want them to be with them. Allowing families to be families is a worthy goal of an immigration policy.
7. Do you support the "touchback" requirements of previous comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation that would require undocumented immigrants to return to their countries of origin in order to normalize their status?
No. It is nearly impossible, especially for unskilled immigrants of color, to obtain legal residency in the U.S… Even for family reunification with relatives who are U.S. citizens, it can take 5-11 years to obtain documentation for legal residence in the U.S…
8. Would you support the addition of funding for stricter enforcement of general labor standards such as wage and hour or safety regulations as part of CIR legislation?
9. Would you support an increase in the cap of low-skilled employment-based green cards issued each year from its current level of 500?
10. Would you favor raising the 65,000 cap on high-skilled H-1B temporary work visas, in light of the fact that in the last two years, H-1B visas were quickly filled in a matter of days?
11a. If so, would you also favor limiting the number of H-1B professionals a company can hire?
This would be a reasonable provision, because it assures that the workplace remains diverse. A diverse workplace is more productive because creativity is encouraged by the cross-pollination of ideas, information and cultures. Diversity is always worth protecting.
11b. If so, would you also favor limiting the number of H-1B professionals employment brokers are allowed to recruit?
11c. If so, would you favor including meaningful prevailing wage requirements keyed to the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon Act?
12. Do you have a position on providing materials concerning health care and public benefits programs in languages other than English?
An English-only mandate not only hampers effective communication but, according to the written opinion of the Arizona Supreme Court, it also "chills First Amendment rights." Where the populations involved are sufficiently large not to create an unreasonable burden, or where the interest to be protected is so critical that justice requires a redefinition of reasonable burdens, materials should be provided in both English and other languages, as appropriate. This is why we have interpreters in courts and hospitals. However, we should not assume that a person's primary spoken language is the same as their primary literacy language, as this is often not the case, depending on where and when they were schooled. We should also recognize that a refusal to publish in languages other than English will often result in an unfair and disparate burden on women. Women are often the culture-bearers of an immigrant people, treasuring the family's past and passing the legacy on. Women are also the less likely to be employed out of the home in a married couple and thus slower to make cultural and language compromises. So to deny women immigrants access to critical information in their original language is to create gender disparities, dependence, and sometimes endangerment.
13. Do you support lifetime eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled and/or elderly refugees and asylum-seekers who would be eligible for SSI except for a lack of U.S. citizenship?
14. What are your feelings on immigrant detention?
Immigrants in detention should be afforded the same rights to due process and adequate care as U.S. citizens.
15. Do you support family detention centers?
Families should not be separated.
16. Do you support private companies profiting of immigrant detention?
No. The privatization of vital government responsibilities, including any justifiable imprisonment, should not be contaminated by the profit motive and therefore should not be privatized.
17. Do you support the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act, the bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop procedures to ensure adequate medical care for all detainees held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?
Yes, see (14.) above.
18. Do you support the United American Families Act, the bill that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain legal residency?
19. Do you support the community service requirement of previous DREAM Act legislation that would grant provisional (conditional) legal residency to immigrant graduates who perform 910 hours of volunteer community service?
Yes. However I do not support it for military service.
20. Would you support an immediate moratorium on community and work site raids by ICE?
21. Do you approve of ICE's use of excessive force to conduct immigration raids as seen recently in Postiville, Iowa?
22. Do you support the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act, the bill that would provide for safe and humane policies and procedures pertaining to the arrest, detention, and processing of aliens in immigration enforcement operations?
23. Would you support the incorporation of requirements that would tie both future economic aid and trade agreements to substantive benchmarks in sender nations that would alleviate some of the economic and humanitarian conditions that foster continued migration?
Yes. And to benchmarks that our nation would have to achieve to alleviate some of the economic and humanitarian conditions that foster a fear of immigration.
24. Would you renegotiate the NAFTA last phase that just went into effect that lifts restrictions on more U.S. agricultural products, particularly poultry, imported into Mexico?
A trade agreement that was based on a real understanding of what a "good economy" ought to mean would look at whether a crop, or a nursing home, or a widget factory, is better located in one location or another, taking into account conditions such as available renewable water supply, and not on where labor is more easily exploited.
25. Do you support canceling or renegotiating NAFTA?
Yes, see (1.) above.
26. Do you support providing subsidies for corn-based ethanol?
No. This subsidy seems to be based mostly on the fact that Iowa has early caucuses for presidential races, and that huge corporate agribusinesses want subsidies, and the oil lobbyists have figured out how to benefit. It does not take into consideration the availability of food staples to hungry people and drives the costs beyond their ability to afford.
27. Do you support the farm bill, more specifically the agricultural subsidies it contains?
Subsidies should be limited to actual persons, not corporations, and should be capped at a point that provides for real needs, or that encourages sustainable and humane practices.
28. Do you support a restructuring of trade-distorting U.S. farm subsidies?
29. Do you support a significant shift in subsidies to help farmers adopt conservation and renewable energy practices on farms?
30. Do you support Plan Colombia?
31. Do you support Plan Mexico, which has been considered to be a duplicate of Plan Colombia?
32. Do you support canceling or renegotiating Plan Mexico?
33. What would you do to address the racist and nativist rhetoric that is becoming mainstreamed and that is tied to a rising crime wave fueled by the same sentiment?
You cannot silence lies, but you can displace them with truth, if you give truth an adequate platform from which to speak. For example, immigrants stimulate local economies, create jobs, and pay far more in taxes than they receive in government benefits.
34. What are you going to do to take a more global approach to the issue of migration?
Migration is a natural, global phenomenon. Rather than fear it, we need to understand it and adapt to it in ways that are win-win. We need to recognize that when a wall is set on its side, a bridge is created.
35. What would you do to provide opportunities in the countries that migrants are fleeing from?
I would renegotiate NAFTA, CAFTA, Fast Track, the Caribbean FTA, the U.S.-Peru FTA and other trade agreements that have undermined labor and environmental rights and caused the loss of living-wage jobs.
36. How do you address the overwhelming amount of money the U.S. federal government spends on defense and military expenditures, at home and abroad, and would you see to it that less money is spent on militarization and more money is spent on social programs?
I would immediately bring our troops home and reinvest the money here – on health care, education, housing, and promoting a "green" economy.
37. What leadership have you taken on immigration issues, including but not limited to the issues addressed in this questionnaire?
In 2006 I voted NO on building the Mexican border fence.
38. On what immigration issues will you take leadership?
I will take action on the policies in #3.
Now that, my friends, is change I can believe in. All that’s left is pushing our new President to see the light of day as Cynthia McKinney clearly does.