Jun 20

Immigration reform: who will take the initiative?

It is widely admitted that immigration reform is necessary and overdue. The question is who will take the initiative? The people asking this question are those most hurt by the current system: those who fear they will be deported and have their families rent asunder. The system simply doesn’t work they say, and cite long detentions and deportations as the source of their fears.

The law that created the current state of affairs is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which essentially made migration a criminal act, whereas before it was an administrative infraction. It also streamlined the deportation process, imposed lengthy bans for those found to have resided in the U.S. unauthorized, and essentially made undocumented aliens persona non grata.

The major reform bill of 2013 seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel, but the bill would have come at some cost. “Beefing up the border would make the U.S look like it’s building another Berlin Wall,” said one organizer.  It would also increase the government’s police powers, say others, and possibly make circumstances more oppressive. Finally, it has not gone unnoticed that corporations running private prisons have been big supporters of immigration “reform.”

Other nice sounding talk that has made activists jaded includes “path to citizenship.” Closer examination reveals that while the term implies the process of becoming a citizen will be streamlined, it is expected that it will still take 10 years on average just to get residence. Citizenship may then be applied for after three years. Fees will not be significantly reduced, nor will legal costs, and the hoops that hopefuls need to jump through will not be reduced.

So activists are not particularly hopeful that politicians will be the spearhead of immigration reform. Instead they will look to Latino voters, whose power increases every year. Eventually it will become impossible to ignore. For the time being,  most districts are non-hispanic by a wide margin.