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Hopefully, Obama will move forward with immigration reform

MARK entered the United States when he was seven years old. He studied and finished high school in the United States. He was also able to enroll in one of the state universities in California. But he is one of many undocumented entrants in the country.

In June 2012, President Obama announced his administration’s Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (Daca) policy that will give employment authorization to qualified young undocumented students.

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At first, Mark was not too eager to apply for the immigration benefits because of the uncertainty of the program should a new president be elected.

Mark waited until after the Nov. 6 elections before deciding to apply.

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Now that election results are out and Obama has been re-elected, Mark is more inclined to file for Daca benefits.

Mark represents many others who have waited until election results are out before deciding to file.

There are thousands more, however, who are still putting a hold on their plans of filing for benefits.

Considering the constant threat of removal, they are hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform will be passed into law, giving the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to become legal residents.

A broken system

The increase in the number of undocumented immigrants is a result of a broken immigration system.

Currently, there are limited ways to legalize the stay of those who find themselves in undocumented status. Thus, the system is choked with millions of undocumented immigrants who for the most part are law-abiding and tax-paying individuals. They are vulnerable to maltreatment and unfair labor practices, as well as prosecution and detention.

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For Filipinos, we know what the biggest problem is: the insane backlog for family petitions. It keeps families apart and forces people into extreme situations where they have to consider staying single their whole adult lives or coming to America without proper visas.

The backlog also affects employment visas. The backlog for skilled workers makes it difficult for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world, which undermines American competitiveness. The present US immigration law is out of touch with 21st century economic realities. The United States has a large need for highly skilled professionals, and there is a shortage of US workers to fill these positions.

Top of his to-do list

 

Congress has kept a cap on foreign workers. This holds back America’s economic potential and competitive edge in the global economy. The system only allows seasonal workers in for low-skill jobs. The need to fill these jobs is so great that it would benefit the country if more workers were allowed to take these jobs on a permanent basis.

In 2008, President Obama raised the expectations of the immigrant community that he would pass comprehensive immigration reform. He admitted that one of his biggest failures is his inability to pass this law. Now that he has been re-elected President, one item at the top of his to-do list is to move forward with immigration reform. A top-to-bottom overhaul of the system is needed. There must be legislation (1) allowing the undocumented a pathway to legal status, (2) allowing more foreign workers of all skill sets to fill the nation’s job needs, (3) eliminating the backlogs for family and employment-based petitions.

Comprehensive immigration reform, in effect, will restore the rule of law and enhance US security by creating legal channels to create a future flow of documented workers.  Enforcement policies must be adopted that crack down on criminal activities and not on low priority undocumented individuals.

Bipartisan support

The failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law in the last four years is due to opposition by the Republicans in Congress. The Latino and the Asian votes for Obama during the recent presidential elections, however, have sent a strong message to the Republicans. If they want to broaden their base of support for the 2016 elections, they cannot keep on alienating the Latino and the Asian-American voters by not supporting issues important to them. This time, hopefully, in President Obama’s second term, efforts to reform the immigration system will receive support from both parties.

(Tancinco may be reached at [email protected] or at 8877177 or 7211963)

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TAGS: Barack Obama, Global Pinoy, immigration reform, United States
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