By Wiha Powell
The long awaited cries for immigration reform have finally been heard. For the first time in many years, it appears that comprehensive immigration reform has a real chance of passing through Congress. Over the past few weeks both the President and a bipartisan Senate group, consisting of eight senators has put forth their proposed framework for immigration reform. The two proposals are very similar, outlining a set of proposals that would reform the U.S. immigration law and aim to be just, compassionate and comprehensive.
According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, there are 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States as of March 2011. This number is unchanged from the previous two years. From July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011, the average size of the resident non-immigrant population is an estimated 1.9 million, which includes students, temporary workers as well as diplomats and their families, according the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in 2011, there were 24.4 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force.
If the reform proposal being put forward by the President and Senate group were to pass, it would provide a path to citizenship for
11.1 million immigrants (both adults and children) who current live in the U.S. The reform would make it easier for foreign citizens earning an advanced degree in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) programs to get visas and green cards upon graduating or on securing employment, and allow them to stay in the country.
The President’s proposal, which mimics the DREAM Act, would give expedited citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US by their parents, who are in college or have served in the military for at least two years. Currently, many of these immigrants already have work permits to work in the U.S., as a result of President Obama’s deferred action program enacted June 2012. On the other hand, the Senate group’s framework, which is also similar to that of the President but differs in that it does not specify if immigrants in college or in the military would be provided a path to citizenship. Moreover, it is also unclear what a students’ path to citizen would entail under the Obama’s deferred action program. However, both proposals do require that undocumented immigrants pay fines and back taxes, pass a background check and wait a longer time for a green card and citizenship than a legal immigrant.
There is need for immigration reform. Even though, for many Americans immigration either is an issue or a political hot button topic. However, it should be neither. Immigration is about individuals, families, faces you see everyday at work, school, grocery stores, the people you pass by in the street. Immigration is about the Dreamers, who want the chance to attend college to pursue their dreams; it is about the undocumented immigrants, who want to live the American dream. Immigration is about you and me. Currently, immigration reform is in our reach. The time is now for Congress to act and these proposals are much needed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.