Innovate immigration reform

Alan Duff

This summer I had the pleasure of watching a naturalization ceremony in which hundreds of immigrants from over 50 countries became citizens of the United States. It was an amazing ceremony with speeches, cheering, clapping and flashing cameras.

It’s a wonderful thing to watch all those people enter the building as immigrants and leave as American citizens. The very next day in a courtroom, I watched six men get sentenced to more than 20 years in jail collectively for illegal re-entry into the United States. All these people had the same dream, just different ways of trying to make it possible.

These two groups of people who dreamed of living in America illustrated to me just how problematic many of our immigration policies are. There is no denying that illegal immigrants cost tax payers millions of dollars each year — anyone that evades taxes does.

They are here illegally and, according to the Pew Hispanic Center 2011 report, there were 11.2 million illegal immigrants in United States as of 2010, with no substantial change in numbers from 2009. That’s a lot of illegal immigrants compared to the one million permanent legal residents we have in the United States according to the Department of Homeland Security

The problem is complex; one needs only look at the current Republican primaries to see the differing ideas among even a single party for what should be done about immigration.

Though I find myself disagreeing with Governor Rick Perry on many of his policies, his ideas for immigration are refreshing. Perry has stated that securing the border is extremely important and ensuring that no more illegal immigrants enter the United State is one of his primary goals. What is to be done about illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., however, really caught my attention.

Under Perry’s policies, illegal immigrants in Texas have access to in-state rates for universities in exchange for agreeing to apply for permanent residency. By obtaining a higher education, these illegal immigrants can contribute back to society and are put on a pathway to legal citizenship so that they will pay taxes, instead of taking them. I believe that we should take this policy a step further.

One of the problems is that many of these illegal immigrants attend public schools through various loop holes. So why not upon their graduation offer them full citizenship? If Americans paid for their education and the illegal immigrants were determined to graduate high school, why not take advantage of it — much like the way that citizenship is offered to non-citizens who enlist in the military?

Another current problem is that children who come from non-English speaking countries grow up in America with permanent residency or green card status, and due to unfortunate circumstances, loose it without any fault of their own. This could happen because their parents forgot to re-submit applications or were deported for felonies.

When deported, these children know little about their native country. They are essentially raised Americans who were deported due to faulty circumstances, and a major overhaul of immigration laws is needed to ensure these types of situations don’t occur in the future.

Obama’s plan for a case-by-case review of over 300,000 thousand deportation cases seems like it would address this problem on the surface, but is only a temporary solution at best. Federal judges are already doing their jobs by enforcing the laws fairly and impartially on their own case-by-case basis.

It is the law itself that must change if we want to reform immigration. A case-by-case review, if done every few years by the administration, would be unrealistic and costly.

Hopefully Americans will find a solution in the DREAM Act that deters future illegal immigrants while allowing those still here to contribute to American society.