In the last few days, we have heard a lot about the potential for a comprehensive immigration reform. There are several proposals. One proposal came from the White House, another came from the Gang of 8 (4 Democrat Senators and 4 Republican Senators), and another proposal from congresspersons in the House. It is not clear how would the final bill look like. However, we have been pushing our legislators to include at least the following principles:
- Reform must be comprehensive. Piecemeal fixes have failed before to address this broken system and will not work now. The failures of the system are not related only to issues on the border or within the processing of visas. Reform should include those who are undocumented, those who are in deportation and those who had been ordered deported before, but are still here.
- Focus on family unity. The current system routinely tears apart families, separating children from their parents and adults from other family members. Creating more employment-based visas should not come at the expense of issuing visas for people seeking to unite with family.
- Improve the Visa System to Reduce the Need for Unlawful Migration. The current system has overly restrictive visa caps and quotas that prevent family reunification and force individuals willing to labor in our fields and factories to enter the country without documentation. Unreasonable visa application backlogs of 10-15 years also serve to promote undocumented entry into the country even though most of those applicants qualify for the visa since the day the application is filed. Priority should be given to visa applications that will strengthen family support systems. Excessive backlogs in processing visa applications must be eliminated.
- Provide a path to legal status and eventual citizenship. An immigration reform should not create a second class of citizens. This will happen if the reform just offers a path to legalization but not to citizenship even though people qualify for it. People who cannot become citizens will not be able to fully integrate into society.
- Meet our workforce needs. Any solution must address the legitimate needs of employers while respecting the work and dignity of both immigrant and native-born workers. We need more visas for workers at all skill levels and a process that adjusts for workforce needs in multiple sectors of the economy. Reforms must protect wages, rights and working conditions for all.
- Enforce the rules fairly. All aspects of immigration enforcement should adhere to fundamental American principles of fairness and due process, as well as prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure. The U.S. Constitution guarantees these protections to all persons present in the United States. However, immigrants are often excluded of some protections even though the Constitution provides those protections for “all people” and not just to citizens.
We must pay attention since many sources have said that an immigration reform bill will be introduced in the Senate the first or second week of this month. We will eagerly wait and hope that the principles outlined above are included.
You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about immigration reform. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in an immigration case. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar may have different outcomes.
I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case and/or you are undocumented, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at email@example.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York13202. Please look for my next article in the May issue.