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Proposed immigration reform plans don’t deal with the total reality that exists for undocumented immigrants

LatinaLista — After hearing President Obama’s plan for immigration reform and what the bipartisan committee of senators released yesterday, it’s natural that there would be parts Latinos like and don’t like from each proposal.

President Obama delivers his immigration reform proposals in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For starters, it’s obvious that both sides are still more interested in politicizing the issue, with Republicans accusing Obama of using the issue to destroy their party. Yet, if we don’t want to revisit the issue in the future, there are certain things that must be done that each proposal either touches on, doesn’t go far enough, has the wrong focus or doesn’t get yet.

Among those points:

The senate plan ties progress on the pathway to citizenship with border security. This is a non-issue because it doesn’t have anything to do with the 11 million people already here. There should be border security, and regular apprehensions of those still trying to cross into the United States unlawfully, but saying that no work will be done to legitimize the status of 11 million people until no person tries to smuggle himself or others into the United States is the quickest route for a unified call of “foul” by the Latino community.

As always, border security should be done hand-in-hand with immigration policy not a “first then second” approach.

When talking about putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, certain words are constantly used — “tough but fair,” “get at the end of the line,” “pay fines and taxes,” etc. These words mislead the public into thinking that life as an undocumented person has been like a long vacation for these people. It’s simply not true.

Regardless of how people arrived — overstaying a visa or swimming/hiking/driving across the border — living in the country without legal papers is emotionally taxing that has required many immigrants to seek counseling for the stress. As is always pointed out, but never believed, there is no “end of the line.”

Undocumented immigrants have lived their lives getting far less money for their work than what they deserved, but always performing a service that translates into much appreciated, and much expected, low prices for consumers.

Also, it is not true to say that undocumented immigrants have not been paying taxes. Living here in the country, they have been paying sales taxes, and in those cases where a false Social Security number is used, employment taxes.

Both plans emphasize “fines” to be paid but for a population that lives below the poverty line, any fine must be in line with what they can reasonably afford or provide options on how to pay it.

Accusations that undocumented immigrants don’t want to assimilate because they “refuse” to learn English is far from the truth. Churches, libraries and schools report waiting lists for people wanting to learn English. Those who don’t do it are usually too tired from working ridiculously long hours or multiple jobs to feed their families.

Since English will be required from any reform proposal, the government should work with local communities and businesses to make sure there are enough outlets to help people learn the language. It’s disingenuous to demand undocumented immigrants learn English but not provide them with the way to do it.

It’s easy to understand why DREAMers and agricultural workers have been singled out for fast-track approval but if this is comprehensive immigration reform then all segments of the undocumented population must be treated at the same time.

President Obama’s plan talks about keeping families together but just as importantly is re-unifying families who have already been separated by this broken immigration system. In many cases, fathers and mothers have been deported and separated from their children because they dared to come back to their children after being deported and they were caught. In the justice system’s eyes, they are criminals because of trying to get back to their children. These aren’t criminals and any immigration reform needs to make that distinction between a parent trying to get back to their children and a drug trafficker.

Also, thought should be given to all the DREAMers who grew up and were educated in the US and either earned college degrees or were in the middle of their studies when they were apprehended by ICE and deported. Just like the DREAMers who are still here, these young people have ties to the US and feel American in every sense of the word. They should be ‘repatriated’ and allowed to put their degrees to work for the best of the country.

While it is agreed that both reform proposals are big steps in the right direction, in their present forms, they lack addressing the full reality that exists with undocumented immigrants and putting the nation on a true path to immigration reform.

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