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We know how to fix our out-dated immigration system — it’s simply a matter of building the political will in Congress to pass the law.
However, we don’t need to wait for comprehensive immigration reform to improve the quality of life for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Currently, there are approximately 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. These 11.5 million people are spouses, parents, children, siblings, and cousins who don’t have the correct paperwork to be present in the US.
The presence of these 11.5 million aspiring citizens with no pathway to citizenship demonstrates the brokenness of the current immigration system and the need for systemic reform.
Polling shows that most Americans believe families should work together, that hard work should be rewarded, and that a path to citizenship should be open to immigrants of good character who embrace American values.
The U.S. public supports pro-immigrant reform; in a study of 2,002 adults, Pew Research Center found that:
The power of the movement to fix our broken immigration policies is constantly growing.
A large coalition of progressive, faith-based, labor, civil rights, and grassroots groups, networks, law enforcement officials, business organizations, and leaders support comprehensive immigration reform.
Noted groups include:
|AFL-CIO||National Center for Lesbian Rights|
|AFSCME||National Council of La Raza|
|Alliance for Citizenship||National Day Laborer Organizing Network|
|America’s Voice||National Education Association|
|America’s Voice Education Fund||National Employment Law Project|
|American Civil Liberties Union||National Gay and Lesbian Task Force|
|American Immigration Council||National Immigration Forum|
|American Immigration Lawyers Association||National Immigration Law Center|
|Asian American Justice Center||National Korean American Service and Education Consortium|
|Border Network for Human Rights||National Latina Institute on Reproductive Health|
|Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance||New American Leaders Project|
|Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement||OneAmerica|
|CASA de Maryland||PCUN/CAUSA|
|Center for American Progress||PICO Network|
|Center for Community Change||Planned Parenthood Federation of America|
|Campaign for Community Change||Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund|
|CHIRLA||Rights Working Group|
|Church World Service||Service Employees International Union|
|CREDO||South Asian Americans Leading Together|
|Farmworker Justice||Southern Poverty Law Center|
|Gamaliel||The Black Institute|
|Generational Alliance||United Farm Workers|
|Immigration Equality||United Food and Commercial Workers|
|Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights||United We Dream|
|Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service||US Action|
America works best when we all do our part and work together as one nation, but our broken immigration policies are holding us back.
Our outdated immigration policies create enormous legal barriers and make becoming legal impossible for many undocumented immigrants.
After 10 years, the aspiring immigrant may request permission to return from the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The majority of undocumented immigrants work in so-called “low skill” jobs like construction, factory, restaurant, and childcare related work, occupations with strict limitations on work visas.
The government limits the number of green cards available for a particular “category” and/or country. For example, if you are an adult child of a U.S. citizen, live in Mexico, and are not married, you would have to wait over 20 years to be reunited with your parent in the U.S.
Any aspiring citizen with either a U.S. employer or close U.S. citizen relative willing to sponsor them can technically apply for a green card. However, there are intense specifications for who qualifies for green cards.
The qualifications for U.S. citizenship are even more stringent. An immigrant must possess a green card for a minimum of 5 years, or 3 years if the green card was granted through either a U.S. citizen spouse or the Violence Against Women Act.
To be eligible for citizenship through naturalization, you must:
Expectations for this rule:
The application for naturalization can be found here, there is a $680 application fee.
Once your application is submitted, you’ll receive a date and address to a local office for fingerprinting. The fingerprint will serve for your background check, which must be approved before your application is processed.
After the fingerprinting, you’ll receive an appointment date and address for an interview with a USCIS officer. This interview will include an overview of your application, and a U.S. civics and English test. Here is a link to help you prepare for the interview.
If you’re approved, there will be a ceremony during which you swear loyalty to the US. At the ceremony, you’ll be given a certificate of naturalization.
For more information, see the USCIS website.
There are three primary groups that oppose immigration reform:
Associated member organizations include the Center for the Future American Worker (CFAW), American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), American Council on Immigration Reform, American Jobs Coalition, and American Engineering Association.
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) earned his infamous anti-immigrant reputation first through his comparison of immigrants to dogs and cattle. He submitted an amendment to a 2013 appropriations bill in attempts to end DACA and deport DREAMers. King also spearheaded an appropriations provision meant to impede DOJ’s efforts to defend Obama’s executive actions on immigration
Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) pushed efforts to pass enforcement-only bills such as mandatory E-Verify. Further, he attempted to kill the diversity visa during his tenure as leader of the House Judiciary Committee. Finally, Smith served as the intellectual author of the famous 1996 anti-immigration law.
Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) theorizes that terrorists send pregnant women to the U.S. to create American hating U.S. citizens, “terror babies,” as he refers to them. He further contends that radical Islamists immigrate to the U.S. successfully by crossing the border with “Hispanic-sounding names.”
Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) will “do anything short of shooting” immigrants in order to resolve the issue. While he argues that “anything that is lawful, it needs to be done,” his plans do not seem to include a pathway to legalization or citizenship. Finally, he publicly supported Alabama’s self-deportation law HB 56.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act in 2005, while serving as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. This bill would have provided financing for an extended fence with advanced surveillance for the southern border. Further, Sensenbrenner supports E-Verify and condemns any form of amnesty.
Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) rallies against immigration reform, believing that it would inevitably increase the percentage of Democratic voters. He stated that “the majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out.” Barletta furthered that immigrants were transforming America into a “sinking ship.” Barletta serves on the board of FAIR, one of the aforementioned John Tanton anti-immigrant groups.
Congressman Rohrabacher (R-CA) explained to a DREAMer who visited his office to plea for immigration reform that simply put he “hates illegals.”
Senator Jefferson Sessions (R-AL) has extremely close ties with the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant groups, CIS, NumbersUSA, and FAIR. In 2009, NumbersUSA notably referred to him as “the No. 1 champion for the American workers on immigration issues.” Senator Sessions has received numerous awards from the groups, and he repeatedly quotes studies sponsored by the organizations. Sessions firmly supports self-deportation policies, including Alabama’s self-deportation law HB 56, and he voted against the DREAM Act in 2012.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) invited four John Tanton network witnesses and Kris Kobach, Mitt Romney’s immigration advisor, to the Senate Judiciary committee hearing on immigration and the 2013 bill to testify about the perils of immigration and why we should close our borders. Prior to President Obama’s executive actions in November 2014, Grassley sent multiple letters to Obama declaring that any announcement would be an “abuse of authority.” Even though he supported Bush’s executive actions on immigration in 2008.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) vehemently opposes any form of amnesty, instead he “demands an ongoing focus on security and workplace enforcement before considering steps to grant legal status, let alone citizenship.” Cornyn proposed an intensely anti-immigrant amendment to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill of 2013. In 2014, he proposed the “Humane Act” in response to the surge in immigration from Central America. The bill would have facilitated the deportation of children fleeing violence in Central America.
David Vitter (R-LA) is a vocal opponent of the DREAM Act, comprehensive immigration reform, and President Obama’s immigration executive actions. Vitter co-sponsored a resolution to revoke the 14th amendment citizenship rights in 2011. The resolution would have denied American citizenship to babies born on US soil, unless their parents can prove they have the right immigration documents. He also served as a lead sponsor of efforts to restrict the use of discretion in immigration enforcement to target felons, not families. He also is responsible for one of the most virulently anti-Latino and anti-immigrant campaign ads in recent years.
Referring to an individual as “illegal” is legally inaccurate. Federal immigration law generally declares unlawful unauthorized presence in the US a civil immigration violation – so, while entering the country illegally is classified as a federal misdemeanor, lacking legal immigration status is generally a civil violation.
Between 40-50% of the 11.5 million entered the US legally through a visa obtained from the US government for work, study, or tourism and simply remained in the US after the visa expired.
While the legal term “alien” is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States,” opponents of immigration use the term “illegal alien” to dehumanize immigrants.
AP Stylebook announced that writers should use the phrase “people who have immigrated illegally” and refrain from the terms: “illegal immigrant; an illegal alien; an illegal; illegals; or undocumented,” in April 2013. Since then, the majority of the media has retired those phrases.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that “to call them illegal aliens seemed and does seem insulting to me… I think people paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings and it changes the conversation.”
In short, nothing.
Congress first considered The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in 2001. The bill came very close to become law in 2010, when it was passed by the House in the lame-duck session of Congress and won a majority of votes in the Senate. Unfortunately, due to Senate rules, the bill needed 60 votes to advance and it fell just five votes short. The DREAM Act was last introduced in 2011 but failed to pass.
The bill was never taken up in the House of Representatives, despite a related bill, HR 15 having 200 cosponsors. Clearly, the necessary votes were there to pass bipartisan immigration reform, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to bring it to the floor.
Every president since former President Eisenhower has taken major action on immigration.
Both President Reagan and Bush expanded protection from deportation to family members not originally covered by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The 1986 immigration law provided legal status for approximately 3 million undocumented immigrants, provided they had arrived in the US prior to 1982. However, the spouses and children of those 3 million were not protected against deportation. Therefore, in 1987 former President Reagan granted protection from deportation to children of parent(s) qualified for legal status under the 1986 immigration law, essentially the same protection from deportation that is granted to undocumented immigrants through Obama’s DACA program.
In 1990, former President Bush established family fairness, by which family members residing with a legal immigrant and who were in the US prior to the 1986 immigration law were protected from deportation and granted work authorization. The order extended the number of visas granted based on familial ties, in an effort to expand family reunification efforts.
Deferred Action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to decline to deport someone who is eligible for deportation. Deferred Action does not provide lawful status. It is a temporary situation for immigrants that does not lead to a path to citizenship.
In 2012, President Obama announced he would stop deporting aspiring citizens who met the criteria outlined by the DREAM Act and created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In November 2014, Obama announced a series of executive actions, some of which expanded the DACA program. This policy expansion is currently on hold because of Republican lawsuit.
For more information or to ask leading immigration advocates and lawyers specific questions, please visit: http://www.dapaquestions.org/
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), is policy created by the Obama Administration which would grant Deferred Action status to certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. Deferred Action is not full legal status, but in this case would come with a three-year, renewable work permit and exemption from deportation.
In August 2014, 52% of Americans supported President Obama taking unilateral actions concerning immigration in the continued absence of legislation.
On December 4, 2014, the Texas attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration on behalf of 17 states, now 26, challenging the DAPA and DACA expansion programs. On February 12, 2015, Judge Hanen ordered a temporary injunction against the DAPA program and DACA expansion.
For more information or to ask leading immigration advocates and lawyers specific questions, please visit: http://www.dapaquestions.org/