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Fixing immigration

Both President and Senate target two failed parts of the legal immigration system: bringing family members to America, and regulating the numbers of foreign-born workers in high-tech and agricultural.
Rallying for reform in Seattle

Rallying for reform in Seattle OneAmerica

Last week’s proposals from a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and President Obama kicked off a high-stakes Congressional effort to reform our broken immigration system.

Part I of our series analyzed what the senators and the President had to say about the treatment of those 11 million undocumented people who are already here in America, with a special focus on the issue of border security. 

Part 2 examines how both proposals treat the legal immigration system, including family- and employment-based issues.

Both Senate and presidential proposals target two failed components of the legal immigration system. The first governs how legal residents and U.S. citizens bring immediate family members to America. The second deals with the numbers and conditions of temporary visas for high-tech and agricultural workers.

The Senate acknowledged that “substantial visa backlogs” are forcing families to live apart, which “incentivizes illegal immigration.” In other words, the “failed and irrational“ legal immigration system actually makes “a legal path to entry . . . insurmountably difficult for well-meaning immigrants.” Indeed, roughly half of all immigrants who are currently undocumented came to the country legally, but lapsed into undocumented status because of insufficient visa quotas for certain countries and family categories, bureaucratic and administrative mess-ups or difficulty navigating the complex immigration system.

Family-Based Immigration

As of November 2012, about 4.5 million people languished in the legal immigration “backlog;” 4.3 million were waiting for family-based visas, the rest for employment-based visas. There are currently only 226,000 family visas and 140,000 employment visas available each year, numbers that have not been adjusted to keep up with the increased needs.

Despite the pent up demand, many visas go unused each year, often because of administrative errors and bureaucracy. From 1998-2007, an estimated 210,000 visas were “lost” — or unused.

The resulting family-based immigration backlogs have caused enormous problems for Washington State’s large immigrant communities, especially those from the Philippines, India, Mexico and China, places where the wait times for family members are the longest. A U.S. citizen of Filipino origin and a U.S. legal permanent resident of Mexican origin would both wait about 15 years to bring an adult unmarried child to live with them.

The plight of Filipino World War II veterans, some of whom live in our state, is one of the most wrenching examples of the broken system. Filipino WW II veterans served with distinction alongside U.S. troops, but were stripped of promised benefits by the U.S. government after the war. When they were finally offered citizenship through the 1990 Naturalization Act, they settled in the U.S. and sponsored their children to come and live with them. Two decades later, the ones who are still alive are still waiting for their children to join them. Others have died, permanently separated from their families.

The president’s proposal specifically addresses recapturing unused visas, and increasing the annual number of visas and country caps for family-based immigration, all important steps for any effective reform package. 

Same-Sex Couples

Another component of family immigration deals with same-sex couples. Current immigration law allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor his or her immigrant husband or wife, first for permanent residence, and after three years for citizenship. But the federal government still does not recognize gay marriage. Even though same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington and eight other states, same-sex partners cannot be sponsored under federal immigration law.

Otts Bolisay, a former gay colleague of mine at OneAmerica, is a native of the Bahamas. He has been living in America for 24 years — on various types of visas and always in fear that he would be forced to leave. For 13 of those years, Otts has been with the same partner, an American citizen. “I found love,” he said. “I can get married now, finally. But I can’t stay.”

President Obama’s immigration reform proposal includes same-sex couples. The Senate framework does not. Sen. John McCain recently called the same-sex issue a “red herring,” and compared it to adding “taxpayer-funded abortion” to a final immigration reform bill.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 6:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Will Crosscut print any balanced articles on this subject or simply continue to post these propaganda pieces?there is nothing wrong with the current immigration system that could not be solved with proper enforcement.

I find it interesting that the author cites "privacy concerns" with Schumer's biometricly secure National ID's. The amount of Fraud and ID theft committed by the population she advocates for instant citizenship is overwhelming. Does anyone seriously think that Obamacare can be implemented effectively without a National ID that cannot be tampered with?

Cameron

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 6:13 a.m. Inappropriate

1. Complete overhaul of section 501 of the tax code. The first step in "fixing" immigration is to defund the myriad "non-profit" immigration advocacy groups.

2. Similarly, defund public institutions complicit in the invasion. Pramilla has a fellowship at SEIU-Dub? No more money to "higher ed".
Your City Council passes a "sanctuary" policy? Vote no on their next levy request.

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Feb 6, 6:33 a.m. Inappropriate

There should be no change in any immigration law, or regulation, until a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement on immigration, and a comprehensive Economic Impact Statement on immigration are done. All that is going on now are proposals engendered by emotion, and advocacy; and not proposals based upon fact, and planning. There are no facts.

That is why the EIS, and Economic Impact Statement must be done. Why are none of these oh-so-concerned-about-immigration politicians proposing to establish credible fact?

The second to the last paragraph of this article has an interesting line: "But there seems to be a new consensus among the business community, pundits and politicians that immigration reform....". That is the problem with the current proposals.
The "business community" (whatever that is supposed to mean. I bet the National Chamber of Commerce, and multi-national corporations), pundits, and business lobbied politicians don't care how their proposals will effect the United States Citizenry.

The consensus among the "business community", pundits, and politicians is a consensus among what the kids call the 1%. It is not a consensus among the United States Citizenry. It is a consensus among some few individuals in the higher social locations, who would endure none of the severe detrimental effects of the current proposals. The consensus should be among the United States Citizenry of all social locations with any detrimental effects mitigated.

Without consensus among Citizens of all social locations, the current immigration proposals will be impositions upon the Citizenry; not Citizen driven solutions. That is improper on an issue of import, such as this one.

That is why the EIS, Economic Impact Statement must be done. There are no real facts for Citizens to draw from. So, what we get is various groups that put out advocacy papers. All kinds of groups. Many, many groups. All with different "facts" that support what the group says. This is groups for, and against, the current immigration proposals, and past immigration policy. All with different facts.

Without facts there can never be consensus. Without facts how is a Citizen to know which groups' "facts" are facts? They can't. So, we end up with Citizens splitting into many different factions on this issue. That is not consensus, and there is no way to create consensus when no facts about immigration are credibly substantiated.

The current push for changes in immigration law is irresponsible, and based only on politics, and manipulated emotion. Law, and regulation, need to be based upon fact and reason. Fact and reason is not what is heard from the "business community, pundits, and politicians. Comprehensive specific study needs to be done. The current push for change in immigration law is improper.

jhande

Posted Mon, Feb 11, 4:26 p.m. Inappropriate

We fixed the problem in 1986.

Amnesty first, enforcement later. Of course, we never got enforcement. Fast forward, another 10-million-plus "undocumented" or whatever politically-correct euphemism we use for those in the country ILLEGALLY, more sob stories, and another permanent reform of amnesty first, enforcement later, meaning never.

Take all the "undocumented" farmworkers in America, snap your fingers and make them legal, they will just walk off the job and take better employment that requires legal status.

You want legal workers on the farms? Pay them what they're worth. If the cost of produce goes up, so be it.

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