Immigration Reform Just Around the Corner?

In a poll, conducted by Latino Decisions on behalf of pro-reform groups National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and America’s Voice Education Fund, about 90 percent of 400 undocumented immigrants that were surveyed stated that would like to become legal residents and eventually citizens.

That “dream” would be attainable for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States today if the current immigration bill being crafted by the U.S. Senate passes.  But in the very same bill, those who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011 would not be eligible to obtain legal status and eventually become U.S. citizens.Complexities of reform

The legislation by a bipartisan group of senators would force unauthorized immigrants who entered after the December 2011 to go back to their country of origin.  A congressional aide, who spoke in anonymity, said:  “People need to have been in the country long enough to have put down some roots. If you just got here and are illegal, then you can’t stay.”

The bipartisan group, consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans, are planning to unveil their bill on Tuesday, April 16th, one day before the Senate Judiciary Committee is to hold a hearing to analyze the legislation.  Senators and congressional aides have said that most major policy issues have been resolved but sources familiar with the negotiations said some details still need to be worked out.

For most parts, this is exciting news, since the last time U.S. immigration laws were extensively modified was in 1986.  But those very laws have been blamed by some for allowing millions of people to enter and live in the country illegally, while concurrently resulting in shortages of high-skilled workers from abroad, as well as some low-skilled wage earners.

Under the bill being currently crafted, security would first be improved along the southwestern border with Mexico, this being a mandatory provision that would attract a lot of the conservative congressmen. Also included in the bill, is the lifting of the threat of deportation for many who are living in the U.S. illegally. Within 13 years of its enactment, those immigrants could begin their road to U.S. citizenship.

The bill would increase the number of visas issued to high-skilled workers and create a new program to control the flow of unskilled workers. But it would also make it harder for U.S. citizens to petition for visas for their extended family members.

Getting back to the findings from the poll conducted by Latino Decisions, the largest proportions of undocumented Latino immigrants said they came to the United States originally either “for better jobs and economic opportunities” or “to create a better life for your family or children.” Twenty-two percent have been in the U.S. for between five and 10 years, and 11 percent have lived in the country for less than five years.

And one of the main reasons for undocumented immigrants wanting to stay in the United States is for the family ties they have here. A majority of those polled, 85 percent, say the reason for wanting to stay is the fact that a family member is a U.S. citizen, in most cases their child – the DREAMers.

We do hope that this is the time that immigration reform will finally become a reality.  The current bill being drafted may not be perfect, but it’s a start.

We can’t have – we can’t have a patchwork of 50 states developing their own immigration policy. I understand the frustration of people in Arizona. They want the federal government to step up and deal with this problem once and for all, and that’s what we want to do.” – David Axelrod

 

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