Before one can aptly answer the article’s title question, one has to take a step back and research the history of immigration reform. In 2007 (May 9 to be exact), a bill was introduced by then Senator Harry Reid called “The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (full name: Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348)).”
The bill proposed legal status and a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. The bill was portrayed as a compromise between providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and increased border enforcement. It included funding for 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 camera and radar towers, and 20,000 more border patrol agents, while simultaneously restructuring visa criteria around high-skilled workers. The bill also received heated criticism from both sides of the immigration debate.
The legislative history of this bill continues. It was a bill that was never voted on, but received heated criticism from both sides of the immigration debate.
Here we are 11 years later and the hot topic in the current events is still comprehensive immigration reform. What should it look like is the question of the day? I will attempt to answer that question in five parts.
Solution for TPS
In 1990, Congress established a procedure by which the attorney general may provide temporary protected status (TPS) to immigrants in the United States who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country due to armed conflict, environmental disaster or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Today, the current administration is seeking to end this protected status for many eligible immigrants currently living in the United States. Comprehensive immigration reform ought to include continued protection for people affected negatively in their home countries.
Solution for DACA
I discussed DACA in a previous article (See Attorney at Law Magazine First Coast Vol. 2 No. 5). The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that is ending March 5, 2018. This program was created by the Obama administration to help eligible young people and give them a chance to stay in the United States without the fear of deportation, and also give the opportunity to work legally in the United States by granting them two-year work permits. Approximately 700,000 young people are currently in limbo awaiting a resolution before the March 2018 deadline. Comprehensive immigration reform should include a solution to DACA.
Solution to Enforcement, Detention & Deportation Proceedings
The backlog on court proceedings dealing with deportation is vast. Per the PBS NewsHour in September 2017, there were 600,000 cases pending and only 334 judges to hear them. The average wait time for a hearing is 672 days. That’s nearly two years! Comprehensive immigration reform has to include a solution to this dire problem of backlog, because backlogs become extremely problematic for many people – evidence becomes stale, witnesses cannot be found, or relatives who file petitions of behalf of immigrants become ill or die.
Solution to Border Security
The current administration is insistent that building “a wall” on the southern border is the main way to achieve such security, but the southern border is not the only border in the United States. Overall, border security is critically important to the national security of the United States. Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission, present a significant threat to national security and public safety. Such aliens have not been identified or inspected by federal immigration officers to determine their admissibility to the United States. It’s crucial that border security (all borders) be addressed in any plans for comprehensive immigration reform.
Solution for 12 Million Undocumented Immigrants Living in U.S.
Whether it be a pathway to citizenship, or some other mechanism that ensures that these undocumented persons become documented, a solution to the people living in the shadows is paramount when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform.
There are no easy answers to this issue. Immigration reform has been hotly debated for years, and will continue to be hotly debated in years to come. Throughout the years, though, immigration policies in the United States have matched the ideals of American life. These ideals include liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity and diversity. It is my hope that in the midst of our debates and discussions on this issue and others, that we never forget to uphold the ideals that make us truly American. We should have a comprehensive immigration reform law that truly reflects the ideals of American life.