Last night Social Work Chats had a wonderful and timely discussion on immigration reform and the DREAM Act. I want to take the time, once again, to thank Melinda K. Lewis for joining us and for providing great insight into this pressing issue.
Melinda shared with us her belief that we have to strike while the iron is hot, because after this year the sense of urgency legislators currently have to work on implementing fair and workable immigration reform will fade. In other words, now is the time to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. You can read a transcript of the chat here.
Coincidentally, our chat on this issue came at a time when the topic of immigration reform is dominating the news cycle. President Obama made an important announcement today where he outlined his plan for comprehensive reform. His speech came the day after the release of the gang of 8’s (the name given to a bipartisan group of eight US Senators who have been working on overhauling the country’s immigration system) framework for immigration reform. The Senate and White House plans share many similarities. You can read the White House’s immigration plan here.
The Senators framework calls for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children or those who are currently working in agriculture to take a different path to citizenship than other undocumented immigrants seeking a green card. The report also calls for the establishment of a “new agricultural workers program.” The report does not outline steps childhood arrivals will need to follow, so perhaps DACA guidelines will remain in place. The report places an emphasis on the importance of giving the “best and brightest” the opportunity to become citizens. The framework makes a provision for issuing green cards to immigrants who have earned a Master’s degree or PhD from an American university so long as that degree is in science, technology, engineering, or math. Furthermore, the report provides an outline for establishing a system in which undocumented immigrants can obtain “probationary legal status” :
Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.
Additional key points included only implementing a pathway to citizenship once the United States South/West border is secure:
We will demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays by requiring our proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card.
Adam Serwer at Mother Jones wrote how making citizenship contingent on border security could result in none of the 11 million undocumented immigrants ever seeing a pathway to citizenship become a reality. As Serwer points out, the idea of our boarders being 100% secure is unrealistic and unattainable.