While we have heard plenty of ideas regarding immigration reform in recent years, we need to focus on more common sense, practical solutions to our immigration problems. Before we can agree on what these solutions should be, we have to define and examine our problems. A border wall and detention (essentially jail time for undocumented immigrants awaiting trial) are solutions that fail to address the major problems burdening our system today. Both of these solutions are ways to prevent criminals and “job-stealers” from coming into our country without permission. But these solutions don’t address the major problems we are currently facing.
The majority of people who are seeking entry into our country through our Southern border are not Mexicans or single adults looking for work or selling drugs. According to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the largest undocumented demographic seeking entry into the U.S. in 2016 are Central American families who are legally allowed to come here based on their need for asylum. Building a wall to keep them out or spending money to detain these people makes no sense because they are fully within their rights to seek refuge and safety for their families in our country. Asylum-seekers often turn themselves in at the border and simply request protection; they aren’t trying to sneak over the border, undetected.
Violence and poverty in Central America are particular “push” factors driving the families to leave their homes, Secretary Johnson says. Such violence is particularly prevalent in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. “If you’re in a burning house, you’re going to find a way out,” Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told NBC.
Because the current flow of immigrants from this region are overwhelmingly asylum-seekers – rather than the economic migrants who have entered the United States without papers in the past – they are permitted to stay in the US until their claims are processed. More than 86 percent of immigrants have been able to demonstrate a “credible fear” of returning to their home countries, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those immigrants are allowed to remain in the United States at least until their cases conclude, which intensifies pressure on services. Wisely, Jeh Johnson has called for a judicious mix of policies to address poverty and violence in the Central American region, including allowing for an expansion of in-country asylum requests and improving border security technologies.
As Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, has said, we don’t need a wall; we need to streamline and improve the processes by which undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers are empowered to legally work and live in this country. As the backlog of immigration cases has grown, so has the wait time for cases to be resolved. In 1998, immigration cases were resolved within 10 months. The wait is now closer to two years, and in some areas, almost three. Undocumented immigrants are often undocumented not because they are choosing to avoid legalities, but because they are simply waiting for our slow immigration system to grant them their legal papers.
Based on forty years of experience in immigration law, here are some of the major problems and solutions that need to be considered to fix our immigration system:
1.Problem: H-2A and H-2B visas aren’t working. Farmers complain the system is unnecessarily complex, which discourages legal documentation of workers.
Solution: Craft a less bureaucratic worker program.
2. Problem: The current 10-year bars imposed by 1996 laws are destroying families and the practical flow of immigrants between the US, Canada and Mexico.
Solution: Eliminate the 10 year bars, allowing undocumented immigrants to pursue a path to legal status in a more efficient manner. Doing so will help protect the integrity of families while allowing for consistency and progress in the job market, empowering immigrants to contribute to our economy to the best of their potential.
3.Problem: Our system was seriously and negatively impacted in 1977 when we went to a per country quota in the Western Hemisphere as opposed to a hemispheric quota.
Solution: Implement a hemispheric quota, allowing real rather than predicted immigration needs to be met. It stands to reason we’re going to get more Canadians, Mexicans and Central Americans than Syrians, for example, due to proximity and familiar cultures. Practicality is a key element that is missing in our immigration system.
4.Problem: Inflexible Mexican border policies that are not practical.
Solution: Create a border entry and exit system that is secure but does not require Mexicans to immigrate if they can easily come and go across our border for work and home life. Oftentimes, they can support their families more easily if the family stays in Mexico. Mexico has great advantages like its health system and free education system, including college. If we make it hard for families to stay together due to impossible worker programs, we are fueling illegal immigration of those family members.
5.Problem: Our immigration judges are overburdened, with a current backlog of over half a million cases.
Solution: More immigration judges and support staff are needed to reduce wait times, allowing those immigrants who are doing what they can to follow our laws to gain legal status in a more timely manner.
We are eager to contribute to the immigration reform conversation and hold hope for an improved system in the coming years, as immigration problems have taken the spotlight in this election.
Please let us know if you have any questions about immigration or need the help of an immigration lawyer. Our highly experienced staff has an excellent record of successes, and we are here to help you achieve your dream of living and working in the US.