THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF AMERICAN IMMIGRATION
The national debate on immigration and immigration reform has reached a pinnacle point in the American political process. Since Barack Obama modified the procedures for deportation of immigrants to the United States, Ten ICE agents filed suit, an election season was littered with accusations of amnesty, insensitivity, and racism, and all the while employers and immigrants alike have had a terrible time figuring out how to get work done, and who could legally do the work.
Following an election season focused on the Obama administration’s alleged amnesty by fiat, the politically unsuccessful Republicans have shifted their immigration focus from a “self-deportation” stance, wherein harsh enforcement of immigration and employment laws would discourage illegal immigration, to a “path to citizenship” approach, wherein “amnesty” could be accomplished through pain-stakingly difficult federal red tape. On the other side of the aisle, The White House has offered political platitudes without any real meat.
THE DIRT ROAD TO CITIZENSHIP
None of the solutions offered by either party deal with the serious issues of correcting the “dirt road” “path to citizenship”. Right now, the process is littered with forms. These forms are so complicated usually a lawyer is needed just to get the process started. An immigrant also needs to be flush with cash, so he or she can afford all the filing fees and so that he or she is not a financial burden on the U.S. Government Welfare system.
ENTERING WITHOUT INSPECTION
There are essentially two “paths to citizenship” right now. While Republicans rant and rave about amnesty, the DREAM Act and all proposed legislation for reformation does not affect the legal consequences of entering without inspection. If a person “illegally” immigrates to the United States (he or she enters the United States without a customs or INS inspection interview) he or she must request a pardon for illegal entry without customs inspection. Only then can an immigrant proceed with the standard immigration process.
ENTRY WITH INSPECTION
Persons who enter the United States with non-immigrant visas (usually for travel or school) often times undergo an inspections process when obtaining said visa. If, upon arrival, the person wishes to remain in the United States beyond the dates permitted by his or her visa, he or she must apply for an extension of his or her non-immigrant status or leave the country until the non-immigrant visa can be renewed. Only then can the “path to citizenship” start. Note: many non- immigrants cannot start the traditional path without first going through the embassy of national origin and changing his or her visa status.
WHERE THE PATHS CONVERGE
Once all of the preliminary issues relating to inspection or immigration status have been resolved, then an immigrant can make an initial petition for immigration status. A month or so after the petition for immigration is processed, the immigrant can apply for permanent resident status. Several months after the immigrant can legally be present in the United States indefinitely, he or she can try to get a job, legally. Then, if he or she would like due process rights under the 4th, 5th, or 14th amendments, he or she can apply to be an American citizen. Then, several years later, he or she can be considered on the same legal plane as an American citizen.
PROBLEMS UNRESOLVED BY PROPOSED LEGISLATION
The biggest problem that is unresolved by proposed immigration legislation is the cost. The average American immigrant, whom enters either with our without inspection, can be more than $10,000.00, without attorneys’ fees. These costs must be bore by the immigrant with no aid from the Federal government. While fiscal conservatives may see this as a way to prevent leeching and fiscal abuse, the same rules apply to doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professors as they do to migrant day workers. Our country is in serious need of intellectual fortitude, and we are denying entrance into our country based on the financial feasibility of being a well-educated person with no income for nearly a year before they are legally permitted to work within the country.
Other issues relate to the procedural inefficiency of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office. Immigration quotas from international American embassies are not centrally managed by the USCIS, so how many Egyptian or Mexican immigrants are permitted to obtain immigrant visas is not known by Washington DC. Lotteries for immigrant visas take years to work through and competent and intelligent people are prohibited from entering with an immigrant status as a result. This results in non-immigrant visas being used to enter with inspection, and then procedural loopholes such as “acquisition of gainful employment within the United States” or “marriage to an American citizen currently residing within the United States” being used as a basis to extend or modify a non-immigrant status so that the non-immigrant can illegally work and anxiously wait until procedural waiting periods for the I-130 have passed. This creates criminals out of otherwise noble people because of our own procedural inefficiencies. America is a melting pot. A land full of immigrants. And yet, now a days people that strive for the American dream are forced to break our laws to be with the ones they love or to accomplish their dreams.
One form. One filing fee. That is a great place to start. Inspection by customs and INS required with the submission of every application can solve the concerns of “where did you come from, why are you here, and are you a terrorist.” Simplicity in the red tape will solve a lot of our problems. No one has proposed this. There is no reason for a person to be legally eligible to be a permanent resident in the United States, but not be legally permitted to work a part-time job at Zaxby’s.
Expedited naturalization processes would also help. Classes on naturalization are something I support; however, citizenship tests that are more difficult than a high school civics test are inherently unfair, because I know many American citizens that cannot name their House of Representatives member or all ten of the Bill of Rights. While I don’t want to dilute the civic competency of the American citizen, the fact that our naturalized immigrants know more about America than naturally born citizens do is appalling.
In the end we need to recognize the problems before proposing solutions. Otherwise were just paving a dirt road with sand, and the path becomes one that no one can traverse.