GOP, democrats agree on immigration citizenship, but legislation still up in air

February 4, 2013 · Print This Article

Marcus Atkinson editor

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To read part 1 of the story click here.

Northeast Ohio is home to thousands of undocumented immigrants who provide a reliable workforce to keep industries such as agricultural and meatpacking strong. Undocumented immigrants live in cities such as Akron, Cleveland, Lorain, and Toledo. Both the President’s immigration proposal and the Senate proposal express interest in providing a pathway for undocumented immigrants to become legal as well as a federal employee background check which would identify those who are in the country unlawfully.
Immigration attorney Farhad Sethna believes based on the proposals, the immigration legislation that will be drafted will mimic the deferred action program currently being implemented for those who came to the United States before the age of 16 and have no serious criminal offense. Sethna says the same program could be implanted for the entire age population.
“[The federal government] can start providing provisional status,” Sethna said. “They can be granted temporary status and issued an employment card.”
An employment card would allow time for the undocumented immigrant to do what is necessary to become a legal citizen and not have the fear of being deported, in the meantime, the undocumented can apply and receive a driver’s license and enjoy other privileges of U.S. citizens.
Congress and the Obama administration both agree employee verification is vital to a successful immigration reform plan. In both plans employers use E-verify to ensure a potential employee is eligible to work in the United States. E-verify would conduct a federal background check, a background check would search for issues such as criminal history, including cases of fraud, if an employer knowingly hires someone who is illegally in the country, and very harsh penalties are imposed.
“I think it’s a great benefit”, Sethna said speaking of the E-verify system. “[Undocumented immigrants] could have a valid driver’s license. Right now there is criminal exploitation of aliens, and the employers are seldom prosecuted.” But now having a paper trail and legalized workers, the immigrants are less likely to have pay withheld from their employer.
“This would give the alien many more rights,” said Sethna.
According to the last Pew Hispanic research poll, over 60 percent of the United States agrees immigration reform is needed, a majority also agree a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally is needed. In addition with over 70 percent of Latinos voting for President Obama in the last elections, and many political experts saying the GOP lost the presidential election because of their lack of Latino support, immigration appears to be on the fast track toward legislation with a national mandate behind it.
Monday White House press secretary, Jay Carney said the 71 percent of Latinos who voted for the president has enabled immigration to be in the grasp of reality, he repeated Obama in saying the White House does not want immigration to be “bogged down in debate”.
Sethna agrees, when asked if something needs to be done during the Obama administration for immigration reform to become a reality, he replied, “I think it needs to be done very soon.”
The House has also drafted their version of immigration reform, the next step is for both chambers of Congress to come together and settle on one piece of legislation; Obama has given Congress a timeline of six months or the administration will act. Congress has brought up immigration reform many times over the past couple decades, including in 2001, GOP led immigration reform bill that made it relatively easy for an undocumented immigrant to become a citizen.
“[September 11] changed that and we became focused on enforcement,” said Richard Herman, immigration attorney and author of, Immigration Inc., Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American worker). “American changed to “we should be suspicious on all immigrants””.
Herman said the current immigration laws and its uncertainty causes many highly skilled immigrants to leave the country after getting a college degree, it also prevents highly skilled immigrants from coming to the Unites States in the first place.
“The U.S. has misplaced priorities,” Herman said. “We are having the wrong discussion on immigration.”
The GOP wants “triggers” in the legislation, or benchmarks immigrants must meet to become citizens, Herman said these triggers would not be good for the overall economy of the country; he believes it would create a permanent lower class.
Herman said ultimately he is not sure immigration reform will be achieved, he believes the immigration discussion needs to shit from securing borders to humanizing the situation and begin a debate on the virtues of accepting immigrants to in part, improve both the local and the federal economy.
“This country is getting tired of hearing all this anger and no solution to immigration, the country wants to move on,” Herman said. “We are arguing about the soul of the country, we are arguing about who we are as a country”


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