Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Immigration Reform Solution that Makes Sense

It has just been reported that House Speaker John Boehner is drafting GOP principles on immigration reform legislation, and that he will soon release them in an effort to push his members to vote for it. Nearly everyone sees this as a positive sign that reform may actually happen in 2014.

So the question becomes, what will immigration reform look like in the hands of the GOP? The major sticking point has been whether reform should include a separate and distinct pathway to citizenship for individuals that are undocumented. The people most effected by this issue see through the politics. Some now acknowledge that the GOP isn't solely to blame realizing many Democrats are using a "pathway to citizenship" as a wedge issue to win elections. In sum, politicians playing politics rather than solving problems.

A recent poll reveals that Hispanics and Asian Americans see deportation relief as more important than a pathway to citizenship. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., agrees stating that: "...citizenship is important, but I don't think it is a big deal breaker either," "Right now we have to stop the deportations that are breaking up families. And if we do not get citizenship this year, we will be back next year and the year after that." Given these revelations, it is clear that there is room for compromise. 

Moreover, from what I have seen a reboot on immigration reform isn't necessarily a bad thing as the pathway to citizenship in the Senate Bill is illusory at best. It has been estimated that under the Senate Bill many/most of the undocumented population will never achieve "Green Card" status let alone full citizenship. Most importantly, a large percentage would face deportation again should they fail to meet the strict requirements of registered provisional immigrant status.

As I have previously written, there is a much more practical way to achieve both an end to deportations for the deserving, as well as provide a pathway to citizenship for immediate relatives of United States citizens and other immigrants that have visas available to them through family members and offers of employment. A way that won't require undocumented immigrants to endure the Bataan Death March of immigration reform as set forth in S.744.

The solution would immediately provide legal status to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. A solution that creates a temporary renewable status that brings people out of the shadows, protects them from deportation, and also provides employment and travel authorization so that people can lead normal lives. The new status could be renewed indefinitely in the absence of disqualifying criminal grounds of removal, and would require a one-time payment of a penalty fee, and a substantially lower filing fee for renewals, which would be required every ten years. 

Although there would be no independent pathway to citizenship baked in, you would not be precluded from obtaining a Green Card and ultimately citizenship through the normal channels. This solution would allow undocumented immediate relatives of United States citizens to immediately apply for a Green Card the moment they receive their status. Spouses of United States citizens would be eligible to apply for citizenship three years after they get their Green Card. 

It is a real path to citizenship. 

For this solution to work properly we need more immigrant visa numbers as well as a robust skilled and guest worker program to afford future immigrants an opportunity to come to this country legally. I have already articulated this solution to several GOP members of Congress.

Let's just hope they were listening.

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