The prospect of an immigration reform bill has come as a welcome glimmer of hope for millions of would-be immigrants to the United States. The bill will not only assist those millions of undocumented persons who have no other form of immigration, but also those who are stuck in a priority date backlog purgatory, and those who are still in the long unsettling process of immigrating through employment based and family based petitions. Most of all, the bill will re-unify families who are split into those who are “legal” and those who are “illegal.” In addition, it will open up the underground economy and bring sorely-needed dollars to public coffers.
In keeping a watchful eye on the progress of the reform bill, it is surprising that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can be a critic of the proposed immigration bill and go so far as to vote against it. Sen. Ted Cruz, himself, is a first generation American. His own parent fled Cuba as a refugee in order to make a life for himself and his family, an effort from which Sen. Ted Cruz himself has benefitted, rising to the ranks of Senator. It’s selfish and abominable of the Senator to deny persons in similar positions to that in which his own family found itself, to achieving the now illusive American Dream. Like his father, millions of Cubans’ destination in the United States caused chaos in the country’s immigration system, thus displacing thousands of Mexicans who had been waiting for their turn to get their lawful permanent residence. All of us who are familiar with this history sadly observe the Cubans who continue a fantasy that “they came in legally.” They did not come in “legally,” but as refugees and the U.S. government accorded them immigrant visas that were earmarked for thousands of Mexican nationals. This situation is sad because we are still suffering from the effects of this displacement and it seems that no one, much less Ted Cruz, are willing to recognize the true causes of why we have 11-or-so million undocumented aliens, mostly from Mexico.
Ironically, the chief complaint of the Senator is that the proposed path to citizenship is inconsistent with the rule of law and that this is unfair to legal immigrants who have waited for years or decades for their prioritydates to become current. Another criticism of the proposed bill is that a path to citizenship only serves to encourage more illegal immigration. Both positions fail to look at the fundamental cause of illegal immigration, which is a system that hasn’t worked for decades because it’s inconsistent with our realities.
Senator Cruz’s arguments are unfounded for additional reasons. Firstly, the current immigration act provides for a path to citizenship following status as a legal permanent resident. It does not reward illegal immigrants with citizenship. It offers a legal long-term path to citizenship by providing temporary resident status to persons who qualify in terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act for such immigration benefits.
The immigration reform is not a reward for being in the country unlawfully. Certain safeguards (if you will) in the reform bill prevent this “reward for law breaking”. This includes providing some sort of status with a work permit and permanent residence only after ten years. That, in itself, is a sufficient purgatory of ten years to atone for immigration violation sins, before undocumented persons are allowed through the pearly gates of resident status.
It is also not surprising that people shy away from legal immigration. Besides our history of displacing one group (the Mexicans) in favor of another group (the Cubans), long awaited priority dates discourage any reasonable minded person from following the legal route. Members of Congress seem to think that the immigrants relish the thirteen to sixteen year wait for their priority date to become current, all the while working for minimum wage if lucky, driving vehicles in fear of being pulled over, living in constant fear and apprehension of ICE detention and subsequent removal.
Given the great concern that most politicians have for the long waits for legal immigrants, they should vote in favor of the reform bill which provides ways in which the government is going to catch up and make more immigrant visas (green cards) available. The reform bill acknowledges the multi-pronged problem with our immigration system and seeks to address these. It may not be the best reform bill ever drafted, but at least it begins to address glaring problems with our immigration laws and regulations.
Immigration reform in the U.S. is a necessity now. It is unlikely there is any good reason to vote against the reform bill. It seems the main contention is the statement of the reform bill being a reward program. A reading of the bill indicates that this is just wrong. The reform bill will benefit the country financially, and allow the U.S. to invest in its future and sustainability. It is hopeful that our representatives in Congress will realize this.