This next few days will be pivotal in the effort to reform immigration. There’s a major rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, April 10. And we’re expecting to see actual legislation soon–with language from both the House and Senate that includes a path to citizenship. But Ted Hesson at ABC News/Univision notes, “the path in each is a long one”:
President Obama backs a pathway that would take approximately 13 years to obtain citizenship. A Senate group working on an immigration bill reportedly came up with a path entailing a similar wait. And a bill being devised in the House would make undocumented immigrants wait for a minimum of 15 years, and a maximum that could potentially be decades longer, according to reports.
Immigrant rights groups generally think a pathway should be on the shorter end of this spectrum.
Hesson outlines four important reasons why the pathway should be shorter, not dragged out. Here are those points, including an excerpt of his analysis of why a long pathway is problematic:
1. To Avoid Creating an Underclass
One of the goals of any immigration reform bill will be to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Some sort of temporary or probationary legal status is the first step in such a process, but if you leave people in that predicament for too long, you’re creating a second-class citizenship….
2. People Have Been Here for a Long Time Already
Judging by reports, an immigration bill will likely ask that undocumented immigrants endure a waiting period of eight to 10 years before they are eligible to apply for a green card. But if a bill doesn’t account for longevity in the U.S., that could mean people who have been living and working in the country for decades could still be subject to a long road to citizenship, according to Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund…
3. Family Strife
Nearly 9 million people in the U.S. live in “mixed-status families,” in which some relatives have legal status and some don’t, according to a 2009 report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The problems of the family member waiting for citizenship can easily become the problem of the rest of the family….
4. Fear of Shifting Political Winds
Remember Democrats celebrating over the passage of the health care bill? It didn’t take long for Republican opponents to start attacking it with legal and legislative challenges.
Immigrants applying for any potential legalization program could have the same fear — that one day, the program will be revoked or altered. A 10-year waiting period leaves plenty of time for opponents to come up with a way to attack the program, and that could discourage some people from applying at all.
He also explains why each matters. Read Hesson‘s full article here. The timeframe for the pathway to citizenship really matters — as does the accessibility of that pathway to 11 million aspiring Americans.