A Look at the Approved Amendments to Immigration Reform Laws

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Amnesty and reform are two words that are we heard repeatedly and full of hope during the past year until on June 29th the senate halted the debate on immigration law reform.  President Bush said on numerous occasions: “This is not amnesty; amnesty is a pardon without sanctions, the reform, imposes a series of requirements for undocumented immigrants.”
The president’s idea was to bring about new immigration laws that were just and more humane to the current problems and those of the future, since an amnesty would only be a temporary solution in which only some will benefit like the amnesty of 1986-87.  Even though there were a lot of proposals presented and a lot of time invested in them, there was finally a proposal presented in 628 pages with the goal of letting all of the clandestine population (almost 12 million) come out of the shadows, while
increasing border security and controlling future influxes of immigration.  Even when there was a lot of optimism, the right conditions and good will from many, we knew that there would be approval of some propositions, others would not pass, and we would have to make the best of what would be accepted with the hope that those same propositions would be revised one more time in the House of Representatives, something that would eventually not happen.  Well, the undocumented population will continue to grow.  With all that, here is a recap of some of the approved bills that came with a lot of controversy and that make many of us think, that for now it was better to not move ahead.
A bill was voted in that would limit to only five years the time allowed for temporary workers to work in the country.  Understanding that they could count on a one-year work visa and later with a five-year extension, now they would not be able to come back or claim anything.  This same program corresponded to other workers, work permits of two years for a maximum of six years with the clause that says that they must return to their country of origin for one year during each renewal period. But then what? What about the family? This bill would grant these workers the right to bring their wife and children but without any right to any type of residency.  It also reduced to 200,000 the number of temporary workers from the 400,000 originally implemented, which does not meet the real necessities of this country.  At the same time this bill asked for the legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants through a “Z” visa, but only for those who would be up to date with their back taxes and would pay a fine of $5,000 per applicant, and the head of the household would have to go back to the country of origin for 8 years to process his/her permanent residency.  Here we have to look and consider at the following situation: A family of four, the father, the mother and two kids would have to pay $20,000 in fines plus the immigration charges.  What family of immigrants is in a situation with that kind of money available?  They could only afford it through credit or a loan from other family members or would have to work very hard for a long time to cover that debt.  But that is not all, the head of the household or the father would have to return to their country of origin and be away from the rest of the family for one year.  Who would assume the role of providing for the family during this time?  Most likely the mother or the spouse that decides to stays back.  But also consider the costs that would come about from the travel and time spent in the country of origin, and also consider that: There is no guarantee of his or her return.
There was also another Republican bill approved that would grant access to security agents to archives of rejected visas, which would result in the apprehension and deportation of many immigrants that would otherwise not be found.  That’s not all; there was a vote against a bill that would permit the reunification of families that would allow the 800,000 immediate family members of citizens and legal residents to enter the country.
Ironically there were also two bills that were approved that regarding the English language in which: First, makes English the official language and impedes those who wish to receive official communications in any other language.  The second one, makes English the “common language” in the country but whoever whishes has the right to receive official communications in any other language.  Maybe the last one doesn’t affect many immigrants but it is an example of the divisiveness between politician and what probably prevented them come to an agreement for a benefit to those who just want an opportunity to work to provide for their family with dignity.
What happens in the future depends a lot on each one of us, the struggle has barely begun and we have much to do.  The future is ours as Hispanic-Americans, we are the majority of the minorities but we have to become stronger and not allow us to be defeated easily by all these deeds.  Nobody has said that it will be easy but it will not be impossible to reach the reform when it is the most just and humane, we just have to work hard for it.

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