Ten Reforms On An Undocumented Immigrant Wish-List

We often hear from the honchos of well-funded organizations and politicians as to what should entail immigration reform. You know the “pay a fine, pay taxes, go to the back of the line, speak English” narrative quite well. That really isn’t a reality for a majority of undocumented immigrants. Here is your chance to hear from a cross-section of undocumented immigrants as to what they would like to see in a comprehensive immigration reform bill. In no particular order:

1. Deport ‘Em All. This refers to all those notorious pathetic excuse for Immigration attorneys who messed up lives with bad moves and wrong advice. Their lives are intact but there has to be a way to fine and punish them for years of trauma, family separation and lost wages.

2. Delete the Concept of Age and ‘Aging Out’ with respect to law. This is a baffling one. Why is there an obsession with 21? Why is someone not part of their family because s/he happens to turn 21 with a pending visa petition regardless of how long s/he waits in line? Wang waited in line with her mother since she was 4 years old and since it took 20 years to get a visa number, Wang was 24 by the time her mother was allowed to immigrate here. But wait, the Board of Immigration Appeals said that since Wang is now over 21, she would need to wait another 15-20 years to join her mother. One word: appalling.

3. End inadmissible bars. Seriously, the only reason a lot of undocumented immigrants are still here is because leaving the country means a 10-year bar. Sealing the border and enhancing security measures mostly means locking us in. We are just accumulating a growing undocumented immigrant population that doesn’t want to leave without the ability to come back. When people do try to leave, they get detained. Bravo.

4. End discrimination in allocating per country quotas. Retrogression for highly skilled immigrants from India and China? 20 years to immigrate legally from Mexico? 22 years to sponsor your own son or daughter from Philippines? And you expect people to come here legally and wait that long to unite with their families? Read what “getting in line” is all about for people from per country ceilings.

5. Where is the U.S. version of “Canadian Experience Class?” Why is this country turning away educated immigrant students? We want some sort of recognition that immigration is truly beneficial to our country, especially in light of our retiring baby boomer generation. Canada does it in this video.

6. Permanent* partners. This is the ultimate private bill. Many in my generation are unsure about marriage as it is an archaic institution, but we’ll take partner designation for immigration rights. And this includes same-sex, hetero and various other designations of partnership.

*Permanent is subject to re-definition.

7. Tax refunds. It turns out that ‘illegal immigration’ might be a little more beneficial than legal immigration for elderly Americans. For years we toiled and paid social security taxes that we cannot claim, which has kept social security solvent. We were also exploited by employers for cheap labor and worked in some pretty terrible conditions. We would like some tax cuts and the ability to claim this work in our social security earned income credit.

8. Everyone should be multilingual to better understand the ‘Other.’ The world is shrinking. White people are becoming a minority. Bi-lingualism is strongly preferred in a competitive age. Everyone should know more than just their ‘native tongue.’ Language may help bridge differences and bring down ignorant walls.

9. The right to define ourselves. No one is illegal. So stop calling us that out of sheer ignorance and laziness. There is nothing wrong with saying “immigrants without legal status in the United States,” which cannot be reduced to “illegal immigrants” just like “drivers’ without licenses” cannot get reduced to “illegal drivers.”

10. Get rid of the retroactive laws in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. When Congress revised immigration laws in 1996, less serious crimes became grounds for deportations and retroactively applicable. So a misdemeanor committed 20 years ago might come back to bite a perfectly legal immigrant through the gift of deportation when s/he applies for citizenship. See “Perfectly Legal Immigrants, Till They Applied for Citizenship.”

Taking down the Statue of Liberty for its false promise and getting Disneyland to endorse the DREAM Act (since so many undocumented kids are told by their parents that they are here to see Disneyland), came in as runners up.

(Photo Credit:sam_churchill’s photostream Flickr photostream)

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