Stop sweeping immigration reform under the rug
House Speaker John Boehner has made his stance on the Senate-approved immigration bill even more clear over the past week —according to him, the House has “no intention” of bringing the reform bill to a vote.
The status of immigration law and regulation in the U.S. is far past what many call “broken” —our immigration system is, for all intents and purposes, obsolete, and the plan of attack Boehner has outlined does nothing to take even a single step closer to “fixing” the problems.
By continuing border build-up and tackling the immigration debacle from the security side of it alone, the U.S. is taking a passive approach.
I spoke with citizens, immigrants and law enforcement officials alike while in Tucson and Nogales, Ariz. reporting on immigration over the 2013 summer. The majority consensus was that focusing on security is powerless. If what we are doing doesn’t work now, it’s not going to suddenly work after someone throws billions more dollars at it. That’s only compounding the problem.
The security needs to be re-worked. One president of a prominent Tucson, Ariz. immigration reform organization said the physical “border wall is an obstacle” to the border patrol officers themselves, because oftentimes “they can’t see” over it to proactively intercept crossing attempts.
While all those I spoke with agreed that the border is ineffective, no one could articulate a viable solution — which also seems to be Washington, D.C.’s dilemma.
But just because finding the answer is difficult does not mean the country’s leaders — who are entrusted with solving our hardest problems to begin with — are exempt from working until they find that solution.
Beyond the border question is the still nonexistent path to citizenship for the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants already living in America. While the focus is often thrown to the drug trade and gang violence that has migrated across the border, it cannot be forgotten that outnumbering those residents are the students, workers and community members who are integral players in American society.
As it stands now, young undocumented immigrants who came over as children can selectively qualify for stable status under the DREAM Act. These protections that allow some undocumented youth to attend college and hold steady jobs have given a temporary window to a better future — but it is not a path to citizenship. It’s a Band-Aid that will only carry these hard-working, contributing members of society so far. One of Tucson’s leading immigration attorneys called the current state of possible citizenship options “arduous” and even “mean-spirited.”
These DREAMers have the opportunity for a far better life because of their parents’ hard work — work in the lowest levels of service jobs that most Americans would never consider filling. Yet, their parents are the ones who could be deported. And, economically speaking, the U.S. cannot afford to lose that labor force.
Immigration is messy, complicated and highly controversial. But it cannot continue to take second to every other issue the U.S. needs to address. It is a problem that is growing daily, and the country cannot afford to continue putting these 11.1 million people on the backburner of the Congressional docket.
Gough is a junior majoring in journalism and theater.