Immigration Reform Slips Away

Immigration is a heated political issue, both at the dinner table and in the capital of the United States. Most people agree that the United States immigration system is outdated and needs to change.

For undocumented immigrants, options are scarce because the delay for immigration reform continues. The Immigration Reform Bill (S.744) making its way through Congress provides a road to citizenship for the 11 million people with unlawful status. Sheryl Winarick, an immigration lawyer who’s been in the field for over 15 years said, of the bill, “Gosh I think immigration reform is long overdue. It’s late and it isn’t comprehensive.

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It focuses too much on enforcement.” According to the National Immigration Law Center, the bill would cost the country $46 billion for border enforcement, while other federal agencies and services face budget cuts. This would require 700 miles of fencing along the southern border to enhance security and the need of at least 19,200 additional Border Patrol agents at a cost of $30 billion. Congress believes that enforcement is necessary in order to decrease the amount of new immigrants entering the United States. The purpose of the Immigration Reform Bill is to provide citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but other factors fall into the creation of the reform bill. Kim Nguyen is a documented immigrant that came to the United States on March 2, 1994 with her family.

Nguyen’s sister was already legalized in the United States when she decided to sponsor her mother. Because Nguyen’s sister filed papers for her mother, Nguyen and her brothers were able to come to the United States, but it was only after 11 years of being in the United States that Kim received her green card. Kim said, “In trying to adjust my status the name complications happened.” When Kim Nguyen came to the United States she was given a white card that proved she was in the country as a legal immigrant, after several years of being in the United States, she aimed to adjust her status so she could stay longer. During Nguyen’s process, her documents failed to make it easier for her to obtain her Green Card because her full name was constantly being changed within the immigration system.

“After 9/11, the immigration agency was shut down. People who wanted to adjust their status in the United States were pushed down,” said Kim. The effects of the terrorist attack 9’11 delayed Nguyen’s adjustment process. It was until 2007 that Kim Nguyen’s status was adjusted. The Immigration Reform Bill would be able to prevent these delays and give more leverage to the immigration system.

One group the bill will impact are the DREAMers: students who have attempted to pass a bill called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill would allow many undocumented students to obtain a temporary residency for a six-year period. But, for those who aren’t DREAMers, the legalization process would take at least 13 years. The first bills to limit immigration to the United States were the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924, which increased illegal immigration and created Border Patrols. After the events of September 11, 2001, border controls became even tighter. It has become increasingly difficult for illegal immigrants to become legalized.

According to the Journal of Education Controversy, “it is estimated that currently only 5%-10% of undocumented high school graduates go on to higher education.” Upon graduating from college or high school the aforementioned DREAMers face an uncertain future with no legal authorization to be in the United States. For those students there will be no pathway for legal permanent residency until the Immigration Reform Bill is passed. The limited access to legalization for DREAMers is a controversial topic that is quickly spreading throughout the United States The controversy behind immigration branches out to many things. For most students that aren’t documented, there is a hope Immigration Reform can grant them legalization. Mateo Tabares is a college student that was born in Colombia and came to the United States when he was 14 years old.

At the age of 16, he was already considered a DREAMer by his other undocumented peers and aspired for a better education regardless of his status. Mateo, like most DREAMers, came to the United States at a young age, attended public school, and dreamed of going to college. During Mateo’s senior year of high school, he was able to get into college with a scholarship; without it he wouldn’t have been able to attend. Mateo and other undocumented students aren’t eligible for financial aid. Still, Mateo believes that his undocumented story has encouraged him and moved his Hispanic community. “Our communities grow and love each other by sharing our stories,” he said.

Enforcement in the United States has increased throughout these years. According to Journal of Education Controversy 400,000 immigrants have been deported and exceeds has now to one million deportations. Deportation is a fear undocumented immigrants face. The Immigration Reform Bill emphasizes on making the immigration system better for whoever is living in the United States. But America as a whole is divided on the topic. “Society’s attitude needs to change first before any reform bill can be beneficial,” said Kim Nguyen.