For more than two centuries the United States has welcomed immigrants who are seeking a better life. From the beginnings of our nation, various immigrant groups from all parts of the globe have sought the American dream, leaving their places of origin and venturing to the United States to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available here.
Senate Bill 744 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:s.744:) includes important reforms, including a Path to Citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. This Path to Citizenship must remain in a House version of the bill if we wish to accomplish lasting reform.
Even though immigration is an integral part of the American experience there is widespread agreement that our current system of dealing with the multitudes of people in search of the American dream is broken. Current political discourse includes much discussion about immigration reform. Today, American politicians from across the political spectrum agree on the need to fix our current immigration system.
Most politicians will agree on the major problems that plague the current immigration system:
- Outdated visa caps divide families and hurt U.S. businesses.
- Lengthy backlogs on visa and citizenship applications which tend to encourage undocumented immigration.
- The current employment-based visa system is not responsive to employers’ labor needs.
- Inadequate government infrastructure is delaying the integration of immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens.[i]
The government is not adequately addressing the problems that have been identified with immigration policy. Current solutions seem to focus on preventing unauthorized immigrants from entering the United States. This approach has cost the United States billions of dollars and a solution is not yet realized.[ii]
There are a multitude of other concerns regarding the United States immigration system:
- At least 11 million unauthorized immigrants, many of whom have U.S.-citizen families, reside in the United States with no means to become legal residents. Four million U.S.-citizen children live in mixed status families (at least one parent is an unauthorized immigrant).
- Arbitrary visa caps have created long backlogs of family members who must wait up to 20 years to be reunited with family living in the United States.
- Wage and workplace violations by unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrant workers are undercutting ethical businesses and harming all workers.
- Interior immigration enforcement measures are resulting in an enforcement culture that criminalizes immigration violations, resulting in mistakes and civil rights violations.
- The enforcement-only model has pushed immigrants further underground, undermining community safety and national security. [iii]
It is our conclusion that any proposed solution must include a Path to Citizenship for many who, except for their current status as undocumented, would otherwise meet criteria for citizenship.
As immigration reform stands now, a bill (S. 74) has passed the Senate and has moved onto the U.S. House of Representatives. According to NBC News, “S. 744, the sweeping immigration reform that passed the Senate last week, would offer such a pathway – starting with a probationary legal or “registered provisional immigrant” status -- to undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria:
- They must have been physically present in the United States before December 31, 2011.
- They must have maintained a continual presence in the country since that date, and
- They must have no convictions for a felony or three or more misdemeanors. (The law does provide for waivers in some circumstances.)” [iv]
More than 11 million undocumented workers currently live in the United States -- that is a number we cannot simply ignore. Passing immigration reform into law will indeed help the many who wish to immigrate to the United States, but without a Path to Citizenship it will undoubtedly be at the expense of those who have already made a life here for not only them but there families. Without a Path to Citizenship we are purposely leaving no option for those who find themselves in this predicament.
To be truly called reform it is important to include currently undocumented immigrants in the solution. No matter the details of this Path to Citizenship, it is crucial to have a plan in place for those 11 million mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents who already reside here, providing them with the hope of becoming a US citizen.
There is public support for such a proposal to become law. Most national polls indicate that a majority of citizens support a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. For example, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates 65% of Americans support a pathway to citizenship if it requires back taxes and fines.
We urge you to sign this petition to let Congress know that the American people demand immigration reform that includes the millions of undocumented immigrants already in our country. Demand immigration reform that allows those currently in the United States to become full and law-abiding citizens.
John Albers, Simona Duffin, Matthew Pappas, Anthony Suarez and JenaShay Watson
[i] Fixing our Broken Immigration System: The Problems and Solutions. Immigration Policy Center. American Immigration Council. <http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/breaking-down-problems-whats-wrong-our-current-immigration-system>.
Previous attempts at Immigration Reform (including IRCA, 1986) have fallen short of realizing true reform, leaving our country with an enforcement-only model that makes victims out of those who should otherwise be welcomed into the United States in the same way as immigrants from previous generations.
Current attempts at Immigration Reform legislation must include a path to citizenship provisions if it is to be called “reform”. We must not ignore 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States, but provide a legitimate means by which these mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents can become citizens.
We, the undersigned students at DePaul University’s School of Public Service, are writing to urge the United States House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation that INCLUDES a path to citizenship. Senate Bill 744 includes important provisions in this regard that must remain in the version approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President.
A majority of Americans support creating legislation that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
Reform that does not include a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding, productive members of our communities, is no real reform and will simply ignore a significant solution to the challenge of immigration reform.
Continuing an enforcement-only model in responding to this challenge will continue to force immigrants further underground, continuing to undermine community safety and national security.
This is NOT a general amnesty for the undocumented. This path to citizenship includes important restrictions designed to provide a path for otherwise eligible immigrants whose current status is an otherwise insurmountable challenge. KEEP a path to citizenship in current Immigration Reform legislation.