Legislation addressing comprehensive immigration reform is of utmost importance to me, an American-born citizen, with rights and privileges afforded to me, and as friend, neighbor, co-worker and relative of people born outside of the United States.
It is easy to consider the topic on the congressional floor in terms of what to do about illegal immigrants, border security, and worker visas; however, it is more important for American citizens to consider the effects of these decisions on the quality of life of the many people we encounter on a daily basis in our lives — for services, for jobs, and for our overall quality of life. It is important for us to discuss the pathway to citizenship for undocumented people, the inhumanity of separating families, and the unjustness of returning people to unstable countries.
One cannot argue that both Diversity Immigrant Visas and Family Reunification Visas have not only added to the cultural richness of our country over the last several decades but have been critical to our economy.
Presently, the proposed Family Reunification Visa legislation only allows families to send for spouses and children, without the requirement of a point system. In addition, Diversity Immigrant Visas provide opportunities for people who may have limited options, or no family here, to come to the United States. Often missing from the discussion about coming legally to this country and waiting one's turn in line is that many people who want to emigrate to the United States will never have this opportunity. That is their reality. This is why it is critical to maintain both the Diversity Immigrant and Family Reunification visa programs.
Several years ago, I worked in a refugee resettlement. Many people were given Temporary Protective Status (TPS). This is a designation assigned to a foreign country by the secretary of Homeland Security when conditions in that country may prevent the country's nationals from returning safely. Consequently, many families live in limbo in the U.S. Many of these families came in the 1990s; their children grew up in this country and are ready for college. They are our relatives and our neighbors. They do not have a clear path to citizenship, as their status does not permit them to obtain permanent residency. TPS holders include Haitians, Nicaraguans, Syrians, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Somalis, Hondurans and Salvadorians. Additionally, many Liberians have been allowed Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) after their TPS expired. They need to be allowed a pathway to citizenship after many years of contributing to our communities. TPS and DED holders should be included in the final comprehensive immigration bill.
We must not lose sight of the contributions of immigrants to American culture and life as we consider immigration issues.
Organizing for Action, Oak Park