The number is unclear, but it appears that there are about 11 Million undocumented living in the U.S. Of them, 70% are Latinos. It is further unclear as to how many of them became undocumented, and to many it is irrelevant as many in the public insist on using terms to “group” them all into a pool of lawbreakers who are undeserving of any type consideration for remaining in the U.S.
Those who talk about ILLEGAL immigration haven’t a clue about what it is exactly, and instead parrot what the media tells them: ILLEGAL IMMMIGRANTS are in the country. However, in describing them, we don’t take into account how those in undocumented status came to be undocumented or entered the U.S. or why they remain.
In 2000 and in 2001 The Life Act was passed by then President Clinton and a Republican Congress. The law stated that those who had been present in the U.S. since before 1998 would be allowed to file an application either through an employer or a family member before April 30, 2001. Many hurried to meet the deadline, anticipating that their opportunity to adjust their status in the U.S. would be swift and they would be able to remain legally in the U.S. Additionally, those who applied would pay a fine and would adjust their status through USCIS or before a judge.
At that time, many applied for the Life Act under 245(i). However, of those applicants, not many were not able to adjust because there were no Visas Available at that time. Twelve years later, many are still in limbo awaiting for their visas to become available. Those from Mexico and the Philippines must wait longer than most.
These two countries have a quota system and the dates for Visa availability still lingers in the year 1992, which makes the possibility for adjusting in the next 10 years, almost impossible. Many of these applicants who are awaiting for their Visas are here with acknowledgement from the U.S. Government, even if they are subject to deportation. They have complied with instructions from Federal law to apply for adjustment of status, or to become a Legal Permanent Resident, only they never anticipated that it would take them over 12 years. Moreover, their children, who have become part of the DreamERS are now able to apply so that the U.S. government can acknowledge their presence through DACA, but this hardly grants them protection from deportation should they commit a petty crime, or if the DACA Memo gets retracted. They are protected only until we can keep them from getting deported indefinitely.
One has to wonder if the Life Act in 2000, ir 245(i) in 2001, were ever meant to adjust and help those waiting for their turn to adjust LEGALLY or were they meant to include them in a pool where we now call them ILLEGALS.
It is imperative that we not repeat this same mistake with our current rush to pass immigration reform. We have to ensure that there are Visas available to help those who have been waiting in line, which are probably a large number in this 11 million pool. Moreover, we have to ensure that those families are not separated through an arbitrary deportation order that only accuses many of returning to the country to care for their family or simply reunite with their family.
The GOP with their stand on family unification and the economy should take the lead to ensure that families are not separated. This would make certain that recipients do not become a federal charge, and that children are raised in a two parent household as this would create a stronger unit that would have more of a conservative point in the family issue.
Moreover, the education of the children would certainly be of great benefit to the U.S. as it would assure a population that is more than likely to become the leading taxpayers, high skill workers, and up and coming entrepreneurs.
Another essential ingredient in this Immigration Reform is the topic of Waivers which were not available in prior years unless USCIS addressed them or a judge ordered them. In this Immigration Reform, each applicant should be able to apply for a waiver for the Entrance Without Inspection. Moreover, those waivers previously set in 1997 should be revisited and either extended in their year or reworded to lessen the load on adjudicating the applications.
For those addressing the immigration law and seeking to change to include more in the 11 million pool, it would behoove the U.S., families, and the Latino community to make an impact rather than create a law that will bottle neck the system in 11 years yet again.
The immigration law cannot be written to temporarily alleviate the problem and lessen the current number to 8 million. Instead, we need to be determined to include families, workers, students, children, and those who stand to participate in the U.S. Economy in the next 10-15 years.
The GOP stands to gain the most in leading the way to help Latinos, Immigrants, the U.S., and the economy if they deliver and outsmart those opposed or unfamiliar with Immigration changes. We can learn from our previous “reforms” in 1986 and even 2001, when all we did was dangle a carrot to many and told them, “one day you can apply to legally stay in the U.S,” all the while writing a law that was never meant to include them in the first place.Linda Vega graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and the George Washington Law School in D.C. She worked for The Department of Labor, and she is currently in private practice at THE VEGA LAW FIRM. Her areas of expertise are in Immigration and Labor/Employment-Labor Law. In 2012, Linda Vega was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Family Practice Residency Advisory Committee.