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Immigration Reform Must be Fair to all Immigrants

March 4, 2010

Immigration Reform Must be Fair to all Immigrants

Immigration Rally In advance yet another rally for immigration reform set to descend upon Washington D.C., we are all again reminded of the need to amend the fractured structure of agencies and laws that makes up modern immigration system in America. Many of the most vocal and courageous advocates for change in the immigration system are the representatives of foreign nationals from Central and South America. It is indeed true that undocumented aliens from the countries south of the United States boarder do make up the largest contingent of aliens who will be effected by comprehensive immigration reform. However, we need to remember that in order for immigration reform to be truly comprehensive, its effects must be fair and just too all foreign nationals of all visa statuses from all continents.

Fairness for those who have followed the law

Permanent and temporary work visas are distributed according to a myriad of complicated laws and regulations. Many employers and employees who seek to utilize these avenues of immigration have spent years of their lives and thousands of dollars obtaining and maintaining their valid immigration status. While it is in the best interest of the United States to find a path to citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers who do the toughest jobs in this country, it is my hope that their gain does not come from a loss for those aliens who have attempted to immigrate by adhering to the rigorous immigration laws on the books today. A truly comprehensive immigration reform must strive to keep smart workers, hard workers and families together.

What Should Immigration Reform Look Like?

As much as the term Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is used in the media and around dining room tables, the nuts and bolts of such reform are still a mystery. The central tenants of such reform seem to be registration with the government, a path to citizenship for undocumented workers with caveats for the payment of taxes, tight boarder enforcement. But undocumented workers are only a part of the immigration landscape. Adjustments need to be made to the traditional three avenues of permanent immigration: 1) asylum/refugee status, 2) employment based; and 3) family based immigration

In general, reform should establish clear guidelines for permanent immigration though these avenues. Asylum/ refugee law as well as family based immigration have a deep and rich history of case law that must be drawn upon in order to fashion legislation that ends in a fair result for foreign nationals as well as maintaining order and security within the United States. A balance must be struck between efficient adjudication of asylum claims with the need to hear the merits of each case. Furthermore, a system that eases the path to citizenship for undocumented workers would decrease the instances of foreign nationals seeking less than traditional marriage partners in order to obtain a green card.

As for employment based temporary and permanent immigration, clear guidelines are long overdue. There has been troubling recent pattern of erosion of the openings for employment based permanent and temporary employment. For example, the Department of Labor has recently taken over the determination of the prevailing wage for permanent immigration petitions from the states. This process has had the practical effect of adding 15 days to one additional month of time before a green card may be petitioned for. Similarly, the USCIS and department of labor have recently tag teemed to increase the wait time and burden of proof for a valid H-1B petition. What is needed is needed from a reformed employment based system is clarity of the parameters and decisive enforcement rather than inconsistent obligat5ions and enforcement of the immigration laws.

Stand up and be Heard

In order for Comprehensive immigration reform to truly be comprehensive, representatives from all immigrant communities, representatives from immigration reliant businesses as well as immigration professionals need to make their voices heard. I urge all persons with as stake in the battle to stand up and be heard in Washington D.C. as well as the local level. Only if every party has a seat at the table of reform can fair legislation for all foreign nationals and for United States citizens be won.

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