San Diego Leaders Tackle Immigration Reform

By Maureen Cavanaugh, Adrian Florido, Susan Murphy, Peggy Pico, Claire Trageser
March 13, 2013

San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform

Norma Chavez-Peterson, the associate director of the San Diego ACLU, and Nathan Fletcher, the senior director of corporate development for Qualcomm and chair of San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform, talk to KPBS about their new coalition for immigration reform.
As Congress and the White House continue to work on a comprehensive immigration-reform package, a coalition of San Diego leaders today are launching a joint local campaign.

San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform, chaired by former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, brings together leaders from the business community, law enforcement, labor groups and faith-based organizations to share perspectives on how best to improve the immigration system.

Fletcher told KPBS a broad coalition of law enforcement, business, labor, civil liberties and faith group leaders are involved.

"I think every member of this coalition cares about immigration for different reasons, everyone wants it solved in its entirety," he said. "If we all across the spectrum can agree on specific principles, then our leaders in Washington should also be able to."

Norma Chavez-Peterson, the associate director of the San Diego ACLU, said the idea is to tell leaders to take the message back to Washington D.C.

"I think the stars are aligned," she said. "I'm hopeful that our country can move forward."

The group formally announced the effort and presented its guiding principles at Qualcomm Wednesday morning.

There Fletcher said the broken immigration system affects all of the groups involved, including Qualcomm. That’s because the current visa system often makes it hard for foreign-born, U.S.-trained engineers to stay in the country after graduation.

“We have jobs that are open today that we aren’t able to fill because we can’t get the workers with the skills that are needed,” he said.

Aside from visa reforms, the coalition will call on legislators to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, more efficient borders and a ban on racial profiling in the immigration system.

"We have a unique opportunity to achieve the type of reform that has eluded us for generations," leaders stated in a news release.

Immigration was also a topic at the San Diego Unified School Board meeting Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved an immigration-reform resolution, authored by board members Richard Barrera and Kevin Beiser. The resolution states:

"Immigration reform must seek to restore trust between immigrant and refugee communities and local police by reducing racial profiling and increasing transparency and accountability for the involvement of federal immigration authorities in local law enforcement. The board supports a reasonable and wide-ranging approach to reforming the now broken immigration system that protects children, youth, and their families.”

Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs, along with other business executives across the nation, attended an immigration-reform meeting with President Obama last month. Many business leaders support Obama's plan in the hope it will make the country more competitive.