“I am tired, just as many of you are tired, of seeing our parents being oppressed and denied work opportunities,” said Katherine Tabares, a speaker and youth activist at the “Rally for Citizenship” demonstration at the nation’s capital this past Wednesday. “Not because of their skills — because they are very talented — but because of a nine-digit number that supposedly defines a person in the United States, when it should not.”
Like others who were brought to this country by their parents, Tabares and many Americans are calling for comprehensive immigration reform that is inclusive to all members of our community.
A draft of a comprehensive immigration reform bill was poised to be released this Tuesday but has been set back out of respect for the recent tragedy in Boston. However, leaked information from several anonymous sources suggests a significant component of the bill will focus on border security.
This bill — agreed upon by a bipartisan group of eight senators — will mark the first overhaul of immigration law since 1986. While it claims to create a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, the bill only makes citizenship available to those who arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011.
Other qualifications include a clean criminal record and sufficient proof of financial stability or employment.
Only when applicants meet these qualifications will they be eligible for a 10-year probationary period for citizenship. This prospective pathway needs to be more effective, realistic and expedient.
This 10-year waiting period comes with a startling provision — the federal government must secure 90 percent border security before those eligible can apply for a green card and then eventually, citizenship.
While the legislation is written by a bipartisan group, efforts should be directed toward meeting a fair balance for contentious parts of the bill rather than rushing in a flawed draft to appease Republicans. The Democrats have exchanged a later cut-off date and a strict border security plan to create a long road to citizenship that in no way resembles their original plan for an easy, accessible path to citizenship.
In fact, this is the perfect moment for Republicans to appeal to Latina/o voters — who have remained an untapped and growing demographic — by softening their hardline stance on immigration. While comprehensive immigration reform is not the cure-all to appeal to Latina/o voters, it’s an important issue for many who vote — a fact that is slowly dawning on some Republican legislators.
The bigger picture does not point the finger at one party. We must all realize that a serious comprehensive reform bill involves presenting fair opportunities for undocumented immigrants who have proven their allegiance and good faith to this country. We need to rethink the measures of this bill which require 90 percent border security — an immense task immigrants would need to wait for the US to pull off before they gain citizenship.
The moment is now to pull down unfair obstacles on the path to citizenship.