The time has come in America for an Immigrants' and Non-citizens' Bill of Rights. Those of us on the progressive side of things will probably recognize these as simply "human rights," but rights un-codified help no one.

The most distressing thing about the Republican approach to immigration "reform" is that it focuses on the individual immigrant and sees that person as a "criminal" by virtue of his or her very presence. This is why so many object to the phrase "illegal immigrant": because it defines the person as illegal, and seems to put the person outside the protections of the law:

No problems so far, the immigration agent told the American citizen and his 22-year-old Colombian wife at her green card interview in December. After he stapled one of their wedding photos to her application for legal permanent residency, he had just one more question: What was her cellphone number?

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way.

The 16-minute recording, which the woman first took to The New York Times and then to the Queens district attorney, suggests the vast power of low-level immigration law enforcers, and a growing desperation on the part of immigrants seeking legal status.
You would think that a woman marrying US citizen would be exceptionally protected from the abuses we all know immigrants are subject to, from their bosses (who are the real criminals, by the way), from the police, from a prison system that is growing to depend on their "illegal" status for its funding -- but even this woman found herself powerless, helpless, degraded, and humiliated; she found herself subject to sexual abuse, because in this country, a unscrupulous person can seize unjust powers simply by threatening to fire up the frying pan we've placed under all immigrants' feet: when a person is "illegal," any fool can claim the power to deport.

This is because, in the USA, we care only about the rights of "citizens" and "Americans" (I should point out that all of North and South America is "America" -- Colombians and, yes, even Mexicans, are Americans!). By making a person's rights dependent upon his or her legal status, we create a subclass of people unprotected by the law -- a group of people little better off than people enslaved.

I'd like to propose, right now, an amendment to the constitution that gives any individual immigrant victimized by a US citizen instant "legal" status -- so that she can go to the police without fear, expose the crime, pursue justice, and be compensated for her suffering, at once.

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