February 3, 2013

Immigration Policy Reform

My sister recently asked me on Facebook about my opinion on Obama's new immigration reform policy.

Whether or not I would be a proponent or opponent of this new policy, I can't say.  There's not enough information in this article (which is the only one I've read) for me to decide one way or another.  Immigration policy is complicated and this article presents more questions for me than it does answers.

I am extremely thankful to be able to say proudly that Alejandro immigrated totally legally, but unfortunately we are the exception to the rule, not because immigrants don't WANT to immigrate legally, but because it is phenomenally difficult to do so. Alejandro came to the United States on a tourist visa which he had obtained before we met.  While I lived at my uncle's condo, he lived with my parents, earning his keep by doing yard work, cleaning and repair work on their the house.  He was not able to pay rent.  We drove my car - his Costa Rican driver's license was valid here in the States. He saved up for my wedding ring by doing yard work for friends and acquaintances of ours.  After we were married, we were extremely blessed to find a very good, very honest, very affordable, and very helpful immigration lawyer who helped our process go smoothly.  Nevertheless, we had to come up with about $800 to pay him.  While we waited for a work visa for him, we survived off of my substitute teaching salary, and I'll never forget buying two weeks' worth of groceries on $20 once.  We ate at Mom and Dad's A LOT.

In our first six months dating, Alejandro and I researched immigration laws. That means that while we were still getting to know each other, we had open conversations about when he would propose, where we would live, in which country we would legally get married (whether or not we decided to have our wedding ceremony there), and how we would make a living during each stage of our engagement and first months married.  We researched ahead of time the immigration laws for both countries, validity of driver's licenses in both countries, work permits in the United States, and many other fine details.

My point is that there are very few couples who are willing to or have the ability to do all of the preparing that we did, and without the help of my family, there is NO WAY we could've done it.  Additionally, doing all the preparation and research still does not guarantee a smooth process.  I know MANY couples who have followed every rule and still found themselves throwing money into a bottomless pit as they wait and wait and wait and submit paperwork multiple times, when immigration offices claim it was never submitted.

There are plenty of spouses who are here illegally, not by their own fault, and others who've simply ignored the law.  Does this policy treat them all fairly? That is a matter of opinion and this article doesn't make that clear. What about children of illegal immigrants who are also illegal? Is it fair or just to impose punishment on them by punishing their parents? The requirement of leaving the country in order to apply for legal residence imposes quite a hardship on MANY MANY people, which is why Alejandro and I chose to get married at the courthouse just two and a half weeks after he proposed.

I'd like to know how this policy improves border security or how businesses can more easily learn about applicants' legal working status. It's pretty easy now.  Either you have a work permit card or green card or you don't.  I'm less concerned that those who have broken the law are fairly punished and more concerned that workers be allowed to work and pay their fair share of income taxes legally.  Even those who are here on a tourist visa should be able to work and contribute to our income taxes.  That benefits everyone.  I'm not worried about visiting foreigners taking a job away from me.  For the positions they easily qualify for, they are already anyway.

So in short, I DO believe that immigration reform is needed.  I DON'T know if this particular policy will solve them.